South Africa's domain administrator hides key file

In a protest move against a bill in the South African parliament, the nation's web address administrator has moved the zone file for the address to a location beyond the reach of authorities.

          In a protest move against a bill in the South African Parliament, the nation's web address administrator has moved the zone file for the address to a location beyond the reach of authorities.

          Mike Lawrie, the administrator of South Africa's .za domain suffix, says he hid the zone file, which points users to specific domains, because he believes a bill passed by the National Assembly would give the government too much power over the internet. The bill, introduced by Parliament member Nkenke Kekana, still has to pass the country's National Council of Provinces and be signed by President Thabo Mbeki before it becomes law.

          "I think that I have to do this," Lawrie said in a telephone interview. "I don't really regard it as drastic action."

          However, Lawrie admits that some of his countrymen see him as being disloyal. "You could say I am public enemy No. 1," Lawrie says.

          Kekana, a member of the African National Congress party, couldn't be reached for comment. An ANC spokeswoman says a leading member of the party had died and Kekana was busy arranging the funeral services.

          According to the language of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill, the aim is to promote usage of the internet and greater access among South African residents. One of the provisions of the bill, however, is that the government would take over administration of the .za domain.

          Lawrie says there are few governments in the world that exercise that kind of control over the internet.

          From his point of view, Lawrie says, the issue boils down to how much involvement the government should have. He says that he's hopeful the dispute will have an amicable settlement. Currently, Namespace.za is in talks with some government officials, which Lawrie says "sounds very constructive."

          Until then, however, Lawrie will keep the zone file hidden.

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