If you want to start a pornographic website with the name pokemom.co.nz, InternetNZ is unlikely to stand in your way.
The topic of misleading site names designed to bring children into contact with pornography was raised by US child-safety specialist and ex-FBI officer Reuben Rodriguez at the recent Netsafe II conference. This is a real problem, he told his audience.
InternetNZ and registrars have a certain amount of power over offensive domain names, “for example deathtoexecdir.gen.nz” says executive director Peter Macaulay. But “we cannot police the naming of websites which are similar to others unless the owner of the original name wants to take legal action against the similar name for passing off. We also cannot tell what use a name may be put to until a site is attached to the name. We can't tell until someone lets us know, and then all we can do is let the service provider know.
"Most service providers have AUPs [acceptable use policies] which stop sites with offensive material, for example 'how to make a better molotov cocktail' This will be covered more fully in the proposed Internet [Code of Practice for ISPs].”
InternetNZ could also “raise issues [such as the ambiguous names] in discussion. Both the executive director and the Domain Name Commissioner will make decisions and act on operational matters,” Macaulay says. “[The InternetNZ] council will act quickly when a policy matter is urgent.”
Others commenting in the membership list are in broad agreement that the treasured “first-come first-served, no questions asked” registration policy should be respected. If “pokemom” were declined, says one, it would be open to the registrant to reserve mom.co.nz and set up poke.mom.co.nz as a subdomain – though this would make the child’s assumed error less likely.
One member yesterday put a contrary point of view, suggesting a formal procedure be put in place to react appropriately to complaints about such domain names, but replies have again defended the status quo.
“My personal view is that porn sites [charging membership fees] do not want kids visiting as they can't pay, unless they have nicked a card or are using 0900,” Macaulay says.
“The risk of kids viewing porn is higher for sites who get paid by visits,” Macaulay adds. These guys will do anything to get accidental browsing.
"Another risk is [posed by] sites who wish to get kids in for exploitation, or to promote offensive material such as racist, or extreme violence.”
Macaulay says anything that can help prevent children - or other vulnerable people - accessing sites that may endanger them should be done.
"On the other hand we are not censors," Macaulay says. "We are very fortunate to have The Internet Safety Group, who are highly competent [and] very helpful, while being sensible. I suggest those that are concerned with these issues work with [that group]. We will respond promptly to any matter they raise.”