Nominet, the Registry responsible for running the .UK domain name space, has recently published a report on the number of domain names it has suspended further to requests from law enforcement agencies. The figures show that during the 12 month period from 1 November 2015 to 31 October 2016, over 8,000 domain names were suspended. This is more than twice the number of domain name suspensions during the preceding 12 month period in 2014/2015.A revised registration policy, which came into effect in May 2014, made it clear that the use of a domain name under .UK for criminal purposes is not permitted and that such domain names may be suspended. Police or law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are able to notify Nominet of any .UK domain names being used for criminal activity.
The suspension of 8,049 domain names from 1 November 2015 to 31 October 2016 was the result of notifications from eight different LEAs, ranging from the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit to the UK Trading Standards body. The majority of the requests came from the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit which submitted 7,617 suspension requests.
In addition to this, the revised registration policy also prohibited the registration of domain names that appear to relate to a serious sexual offence. Such domain names are termed offensive names under the policy. Thus Nominet, in its sole discretion, will not allow a domain name to remain registered if it appears to indicate, comprise or promote a serious sexual offence and where there is no legitimate use of the domain name which could be reasonably contemplated . As a result of this, all new domain name registrations are run through an automated process and those that are identified as potentially problematic are highlighted. These domain names are then verified manually to ensure that they are in breach of Nominet’s offensive names policy.
It is interesting to note that while the automated process to identify offensive domain names highlighted 2,407 cases, this resulted in only one suspension.