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Nominet appoints itself web policeman

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Nominet has announced it will suspend the domain name of any .uk website suspected of being involved in criminal activity.

Registrars who receive "credible reports" about their domain names can now use a Nominet tool that will immediately "lock" it while they investigate the website.

The lock means suspect websites will still be available if the content itself is not taken down, but only by typing in the IP address.

"Registrars may gather their intelligence from several different sources including police reports, information or complaints from the public and information that they hold themselves," said Nominet.

"The types of checks registrars are able to do include contacting the customer directly, looking at other domain names or sites held by the customer, re-checking the credit card details or even checking the originating IP address from which the domain name purchase was made."

The move follows Nominet's recent mass suspension of 1,200 domains allegedly selling counterfeit goods following a request from e-crime police.

The domain industry has been under political pressure for some time to take a more aggressive approach to criminality on the web. While websites involved in e-crime are often hosted abroad, out of reach of UK police, they often use .uk domain names to target British internet users.

Since Nominet controls the .uk registry, it can effectively pull the plug. Forthcoming laws to allow the government to take control of the non-profit firm if it believes the interests of all UK internet users are not being looked after are in part motivated by concerns over rising e-crime.

Nominet's operations director Eleanor Bradley said: "Nominet is committed to making the internet a safe place for all users. This lock is one of several new services we are offering to help our registrars respond to evidence that .uk domain names are being used for illegal activities."

The announcement is however likely to prompt worries about the apparent lack of independent oversight of the suspension process and the standard of evidence registrars will use before contacting Nominet. ®

Nominet has asked us to clarify that its members will be suspending suspect domains themselves. It is providing the tool for them to do so.

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