Nominet have made a decision, based on a report by Lord Macdonald QC, that recommends that they check any domain registration that signals sex crime content or is in itself a sex crime. This is screening of domains within 48 hours of registration, and de-registration. The report says that such domains should be reported to the police even.
In spite of this, the report actually states that Nominet should have no role in policing questions of taste or offensiveness on the Internet!
So, lets start with why this is a problem - it is very simple, and is a trend we are seeing in other areas already.
There is a question of "should we censor or not?" which is a big and important question. By picking a very narrow "think of the children" type example to start this process, we bypass that question. When someone later proposes extending these rules the question of "should we censor?" is moot, already decided, and the question becomes how much should we censor, with each extra step being entirely reasonable.
I do not think this is too extreme a view to take, really. We have already seen this with IWF filtering and now filtering porn sites. Once in place the rules are gradually, and without fuss or even consultation, extended to other things.
I think it is very bad for Nominet to have taken this first huge step to vetoing domain name registrations, especially as the report even concludes that Nominet should have no role in bad taste of offensiveness.
But the other problem with this step is the pointlessness and ineffectiveness of it. The report itself states, for example, that in 2013 Nominet checked domains for key words used by the IWF, and as a result reported tens of thousands of domains to IWF for checking, all of which were false positives. Not one was, in fact, related to child sex abuse.
The report also highlights some bad domain registrations, including ones like pedophile.co.uk, which appears to be one of these speculatively registered domains linking to a generic advert based search for porn sites (legit porn sites, not child sex abuse sites). So, whilst in bad taste, not actually any illegal usage in any way. Indeed, the word pedophile or paedophile simply means someone that likes children, like most people do, much as francophile is just someone that likes all things French.
The process would have to allow through TheRapist.co.uk (therapist.co.uk) even if used with capital T and R, as registrations have no case.
The process would have to allow through a registration permitting a web site such as www.fuck.children.co.uk as children.co.uk is a perfectly innocent domain name.
So the steps being taken are, in fact, totally an utterly pointless except for starting the ball rolling and approving the principle of censoring domain names.
Update: Oh, and they are planning to check existing domains too - that will be fun! Lets wait for them to block www.nominetsucksdonkeydicks.co.uk (a name proposed by someone on uknot mailing list).
It is a slippery slope.
[apologies to the actual registrant of these domains, I am not
suggesting you are up to anything dodgy here, just using as examples of