Nominet to ban .UK domains 'Encouraging Serious Sexual Offences'

Nominet will soon introduce changes to .uk registration policies that will see it banning domain names containing terms that could be considered encouraging "serious sexual offences."

To do this, the registry is instituting "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."

Domain names that are found to breach the new policy "will be suspended or de-registered." The changes though only relate to domain names themselves and "Nominet will play no role in policing website content."Any websites that may contain criminal content will be referred to the appropriate bodies such as the police.

The changes follow a recent policy review led by the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald QC. The subsequent report has now been published. <>

"Nominet has always had an important role as a trusted guardian of the UK internet,” said Lesley Cowley, CEO, Nominet, commenting on the review and its recommendations. “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 report contains a number of additional recommendations, all of which Nominet are implementing, in addition to the recommendation for "post-registration screening." These include that:

  • Nominet should remain an open registry as "the market in domain names requires a speedy and efficient registration process and because the screening technology currently available is blunt and incapable of judging context"

  • Nominet “should restrict post registration scrutiny to domain names in the serious sex crime category ... because the relevant screening terms for sex crime are highly specific and have a stronger chance of identifying true positives”

  • Nominet should have no role in policing questions of taste or offensiveness on the Internet where the domain name is linked to criminal content, it should be referred to the relevant authorities terms and conditions should be amended to make "clear that any registration of a domain name that signals criminal content, or amounts in itself to a crime, will constitute a breach of Nominet’s terms of business, and is liable to be reported to the police and suspended or de-registered."

The policy will be applied to existing registrations and registrants of affected domains have been notified of the changes. Details on how these changes will be implemented will be published in the months ahead.

Written by David Goldstein, Online Researcher and Consultant.