WHY START-UPS MUST STOP USING .IO DOMAINS

25-06-2019 11:06

Today is a rather big day for me. I would humbly like to express how honoured I feel to have a first contribution published in a newspaper (in Danish, in a Danish newspaper!).

Around two months ago, I found out that the company where I work makes use of a start-up payroll system, which on its turn uses an .io domain. This caught my attention, as I did not know what this meant, or where it came from. I wondered whether or not it was a tax avoidance construction, but found out it was something completely different.

The little bit of research resulted in an article (in Danish), which can be found here: https://www.information.dk/debat/2019/06/opstartsvirksomhedernes-populaere-io-domaenenavne-beloenner-storbritanniens-kolonialisme#kommentarer

To those who cannot read Danish, here is an English translation:

 

“My employer changed payroll system recently, from a quite big Danish payroll system, to a payroll start-up. The new, so called ‘user friendly’ payroll platform got introduced as being easier for both the finance department as for the employee.

Something that immediately caught my attention was the start-up’s domain name, ending with .io – a domain with gaining popularity within the world of tech, as it reminds us of the acronym for the term “input/output”, which is a known term for tech savvys.

Companies that use .io-domains right now, are automatically branded as start-up, simply by using the domain. These domains are mostly popular amongst start-ups, not only because it contains a great insider reference, but also for several other reasons. One of them is that many of the domestic domains already have been taken. This makes it harder for start-ups to find suitable and ringing domains.

I am not sure, though, if start-ups, or even my employer, knows that there are quite some unethical practices going on behind something seemingly small, such as a domain name.

Colonial behaviour

Some might know the origins of the .io domains already, as it is the internet country code for the British Indian Ocean Territory, which can be found south from India and east of Africa. “Alright, but what is the problem with that?” one could ask. The territories are not known for, nor involved in, tax avoidance practices, like we know from the Cayman Islands or the British Virgin Islands.

It is, however, lesser known that the history of the British Indian Ocean Territories is far from peaceful. The territories, being a group of atolls and several small islands, generally known as the Chagos Islands, were inhabited by the Chagossians, who were descendants of slaves from what we now know as Madagascar and Mauritius, for more than 150 years, before Great Britain depopulated the area in the 1960’s.

As soon as slavery got banned in the 1830’s, these descendants stayed and worked as employees on the islands’ plantations. In the 1930’s, USA and Great Britain started talking about establishing a military base in the Indian Ocean area. As the USA was afraid of resistance, and because they did not want to be checked by the United Nations, Great Britain decided to depopulate the islands in the 1960’s. Most people were unwillingly deported to other islands, such as Mauritius and the Seychelles.

It is unknown how many there actually lived on the territories, both because it was not really registered, but also because Great Britain might have tried to understate the number. Moreover, Great Britain claimed that there were no original inhabitants on the Chagos Islands, as there were only contract workers who ‘just got sent back home’. Former employees from the British Colonial Office wrote in their notes that they deliberately tried to avoid the term ‘permanent inhabitants’, so that there was no need to acknowledge human rights.

The British Indian Ocean Territories are still a part of Great Britain today. The International Court in The Hague judged last February (2019) that Great Britain’s act of placing the islands under British rule was not based on the people’s free expression. Great Britain, however, denied this.

Rewarding colonial power

When Great Britain refuses to give up the islands, taxes from the .io domains flow directly into Great Britain. These .io domains are namely administered by the British firm Internet Company Bureau Ltd, which is registered in Great Britain. Here you can find extra information from the British state showing that the firm pays taxes to Great Britain.

The original purpose of .io domains is for them to be used by entities who have some sort of connection to the British Indian Ocean islands, not by start-ups. These start-ups now do indirectly pay the British government. This tax money can therefore be seen as some sort of reward to Great Britain, for treating the Chagos Islands inhumanely.

This is not a construction we should support.

It is therefore of great importance, that companies using .io domains become aware of their domains and the history of the territory. We should not, in any way, support colonial powers and inhumane behaviour.

I, as employee, do not wish to support colonial practices, but the real power lies here with those, who own the domains.

Therefore, I would like to ask start-ups with .io domains to show their moral point of view, and change their domains. Refuse to pay taxes, supporting colonial practices and violations of human rights. Refuse to ride on that train. It is you, who can make a change, just by changing domains.”

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