I’ve written about our views and approaches to internet and DNS abuse many times over the years. Many of those blog posts have used “scary” imagery of evil hackers attacking the internet or some other kind of imagery that focused on the negative side. Today I wanted to be more positive and to look at the upcoming changes as being part of a new growth phase – almost a new season – in the way we all approach the internet.

But first a bit of background.

We’ve always held a strong belief that while we are most definitely NOT the “internet police” that we and other service providers cannot simply “wash our hands” of bad activity. If we can play our part in taking action, where appropriate, then we should. And we do. Conversely we are also often asked to take action when it really is NOT appropriate for us to take action. Why? Well that will depend on many different factors, but simply because you do not “like” something on the internet does not mean that we should be obliged to remove it. In many cases the publisher of a website will be in a much better position to take action than we will. As a registrar or even as a hosting provider we don’t have a scalpel – more of a sledgehammer!

Over the past 10+ years I’ve personally invested hundreds if not thousands of hours working with colleagues across industry, civil society, law enforcement, government and others to encourage the development of an Internet that we can all use safely. An online environment which is both good for business, but also somewhere that we can safely bring younger and older family members.

As an ICANN accredited registrar we are bound by the terms of our contracts with both ICANN and the various domain name registries whose domains we sell to our clients. Under the registrar contract with ICANN we have obligations with respect to handling abuse complaints. Our approach has always been to take those reports seriously and to handle them within the “spirit” of the contract. While not all reporters are going to be 100% happy with how we handle all reports that we get, they cannot claim that we ignore reports! Unfortunately it became clear over the last few years that some registrars weren’t taking the same approach and the only way to change their behaviour was by using a stick. The carrot obviously hadn’t worked!

With that in mind the Chairs of both the Registrar Stakeholder Group and the Registry Stakeholder Group wrote (PDF) to ICANN’s CEO last week to request a review of our contracts to specifically address what we, collectively, see as shortcomings in their current criteria. Put a little more simply, we think the current contracts we have need more teeth when it comes to dealing with DNS abuse.

This is a first. We are asking ICANN to make our contracts tougher!


Speaking on behalf of Blacknight I want a level playing field. Everybody needs to do their bit and it’s not helpful when those of us who do our part get lumbered with extra regulations due to those who don’t. The regulatory landscape is changing and unless we in industry are seen to “step up” we are going to be forced to change our business models due to regulatory impositions from government and other 3rd parties who do not understand how we operate. That’s not good for us. That’s not good for our clients.

So what now?

Over the coming months we’d expect ICANN corporate to engage in contract negotiations with our representatives to flesh out the details and exact language that we want put in to the contracts. This won’t happen overnight, but I’m optimistic that we can get it done within the next 12 months.

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