Nominet Seeks Feedback on Plans To Suspend Domains Connected With Serious Crime

Nominet logoNominet is seeking feedback from stakeholders on how the registry should deal with domain names used in connection with criminal activity.

Nominet formed an issue group that has met three times to discuss ‘Dealing with domain names used in connection with criminal activity’. Issues considered and discussed the issue of the suspension of domain names associated with criminal activity with research, stakeholder contributions, and discussions raising a range of complex issues across private, public and criminal law.

The group has sought to consider how a Nominet policy should enable the company to act in a transparent and consistent way, whilst addressing through contractual means possible liabilities that may arise. In examining this issue, the group has considered the range of views on how Nominet can act in a socially responsible manner and, in doing so, meet its public purpose.

In the issue group’s report, the issue group agreed that Nominet should have an abuse policy that specifically addresses criminal activity in its registrant terms and conditions. The strong consensus of the issue group was that Nominet should not itself be expected to determine criminality in any case. However the policy should enable Nominet to act swiftly where it has received a properly authorised request from a UK public law enforcement agency to suspend a domain. This would be over and above the evaluation process that Nominet would conduct when in receipt of any request for suspension from any party.

The group recognised that a Nominet suspension process operates alongside other mechanisms including requests for domain or account suspension directed toward registrars and ISPs.

The report also notes that the issue group acknowledged that court orders are the preferred method by which suspensions of domain names for criminal activity should be made, but that in urgent cases this may not be possible or practical in order to prevent consumer harm.

The issue group therefore recommended that, before Nominet acts on a request, the policy requires law enforcement agencies to provide a declaration that the suspension is proportionate, necessary, and urgent and in accordance with this policy.

The draft recommendations as outlined in the issues paper are as follows:

  • Nominet should have an abuse policy that specifically addresses criminal activity in its terms and conditions.
  • Nominet should be able to act under an expedited process to suspend domain names associated with serious crime when requested by a law enforcement agency.
  • An expedited procedure to suspend domain names should only be available where a) it is the last resort in dealing with the domain name, following requests with registrar, ISPs etc in the first instance or b) it is the most viable option to prevent imminent or ongoing serious consumer harm.
  • The policy should exclude suspension where issues of freedom of expression are central aspects of the disputed issue.
  • Nominet should consider establishing a registrant appeal mechanism.
  • When the policy is operational, Nominet should set up an independent panel to review how the policy is working.
  • Nominet should exclude civil or third party requests from this policy (which is focused on criminality), but these merit further discussion under the policy process.
  • Nominet should communicate the outcome of its policy development to Government to inform its own deliberations in this field.
  • The draft document published last week outlines guiding principles for policy in this area, building on where there is broad consensus within the group.

The issue group will meet to discuss the draft recommendations on 21 September 2011, and feedback from all interested stakeholders is welcome. For more information, see www.nominet.org.uk/news/latest/?contentId=8617.

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