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Nominet plans to suspend or de-register .uk domain names that promote serious sexual offences

Nominet announced today that it plans to update the .uk domain name registration policy so that it can suspend or de-register .uk domain names that promote serious sexual offenses.

Although Nominet says that it will play no role in policing website content it plans to institute a system of post-registration domain name screening, within 48 hours of registration, for domain names that appear to signal or encourage serious sexual offences.  Where examples that meet these criteria are discovered, they will be suspended or de-registered.

This plan seems a bit strange to me and may have zero effect on criminal offences. Most domain names are registered with the default nameservers and even if the registrant changes the nameservers immediately DNS changes made, can expect a propagation time of up to 24 hours. And that is if the registrant has already setup web hosting and built the offending website. 48 hours seems to be a very small time window to accomplish anything.

If their plan is to suspend domains using only an automated screening based on certain keywords then this could lead on many legitimate domain names getting deleted.

This is the Nominet announcement:
Further to the recent policy review led by former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald QC, Nominet is today publishing his report. It is also announcing that its board has agreed to make all the changes to its registration policy recommended in Lord Macdonald’s review.
Specifically, Nominet will:
  • Institute a system of post-registration domain name screening, within 48 hours of registration, for domain names that appear to signal or encourage serious sexual offences.  Where examples that meet these criteria are discovered, they will be suspended or de-registered.
  • Nominet will play no role in policing website content. If domain names otherwise signal criminal content and they are brought to Nominet’s attention, it will refer these cases to the police for further action, in keeping with our current policy.
  • Nominet will amend its terms and conditions to make it clear that registration of a domain name that appears to signal a serious sexual offence will constitute a breach of our terms of business.
  • We will also make it clear that use of a .uk domain name for criminal purposes is not permitted and will be suspended or de-registered.
The changes are in line with Nominet’s aim to run both an open and responsible registry. The targeted move aims to provide an effective way of tackling the isolated instances of domain names used to promote serious sexual offences, while not preventing entirely legitimate registrations or imposing disproportionate and cumbersome restrictions on over one million new registrations each year.
Commenting on the review and its recommendations, Lesley Cowley, CEO, Nominet, says: “Nominet has always had an important role as a trusted guardian of the UK internet. This update to our registration policy is something we feel is appropriate and practical.  Even though we are only talking about a handful of domain names, we agreed that we do not want those domain names on the register – regardless of whether there was an associated website or content.  So we are taking steps to remove domain names for which we can see no reasonable use.
We thank Lord Macdonald for his thorough report. In keeping with our commitment to operating in the public interest, the Board has unanimously agreed to implement his recommendations.”
The policy will be applied  to existing registrations.  Registrants of affected domains have been notified of the changes.
The report is available here and consultation feedback will be published later this week. Details on how these changes will be implemented will be published in the months ahead.
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About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

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