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Nominet Moot BAN on Swearing and Bad Language in UK Internet Domains

Posted Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 (10:14 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 818)
internet websites

Nominet, which manages the registry of .uk Internet domain names, has at the behest of the government launched a review of its registration policy for new website domain names that will examine whether or not it should ban certain words and expressions (e.g. swearing).

The government believes that preventing bad words in domains names could help to tackle abusive behaviour on the Internet, which conflicts with Nominet’s current open policy of always accepting domain name registrations on a “first come, first served” basis (i.e. no vetting or restrictions as to who may register a co.uk and org.uk address).

At the same time Nominet also provides a Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) for tackling complaints, is a member of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) that helps to remove illegal content and has established working relationships with law enforcement agencies such as SOCA, the Metropolitan Police’s e-Crime Unit and Trading Standards.

Generally speaking most domain registries adopt a similar approach, although a few do have naming policies that prohibit offensive or immoral language in domain names.

Nominet’s Statement on .UK Registration Policy

Lord Macdonald will work with Nominet’s policy team to conduct a series of meetings with key stakeholders, and to review and assess wider contributions from the internet community, which should be received by 4 November 2013. The goal is to deliver a report to Nominet’s board in December of this year, which will be published shortly thereafter.”

ISPreview.co.uk has already examined the problems of attempting to impose censorship on something as complex, fluid and so easily misinterpreted as swearing on the Internet (here and here). Indeed many of the same issues can also be applied to domain names and context remains a vitally important consideration.

In particular it can be very difficult to tackle things like masked vulgarity, not to mention the fact that one cultures swear word could easily mean something else to another person or in a different language. Similarly the letters that form a swear word could be picked out of longer website names (e.g. DickWhittington.blah), even though the original website name might not have been a swear word.

The fact that Nominet has chosen Lord Macdonald to chair its review is at least a good sign that the registry recognises the potential problems. Macdonald is a former director of Public Prosecutions and a trustee of the Index on Censorship. He also conducted a human rights audit for the Internet Watch Foundation.

Nominet’s Review of Domain Registration Policy
http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1355007/Registration-Policy-Review

UPDATE 1:18pm

The Director of business ISP Andrews & Arnold (AAISP) has added his comment.

Adrian Kennard said:

1. The whole idea of banning swear words is mad! The whole idea of what constitutes a swear word changes over time, and depends massively on context. Domain names lack context, so is bloody.co.uk swearing? It would be a nightmare to manage a list and handle disputes.

2. Banning a word in a domain name registered at Nominet does nothing for all of the other top level domains. People in the UK often use web sites and email using .com domains or one of the hundreds of other top level and second level domains in the world. Our neighbour in the trading estate here persist in using a uk.net domain. If people cannot register in Nominet they will register elsewhere – so how does that, in any way, tackle abusive behaviour?

3. Banning a word in a UK domain at Nominet does not stop the word being used in a UK domain (especially with second level .uk domains being considered). If I have nicename.co.uk I can have ****ity.****.****.nicename.co.uk as a web site or in email address and the ban will have no effect on that as only the nicename.co.uk part is managed by Nominet.

4. You cannot tackle behavioural issues by such petty technical means anyway. If there are behavioural issues that need addressing, address the cause not the symptom.

5. This is, once again, an attempt at censorship, which is bad for lots of reasons, and breaks basic human rights to freedom of expression.”

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11 Responses
  1. dragoneast

    Could HM Government start at home and get Lord Macdonald to draft a code of conduct for MPs behaviour with some effective sanctions (withdrawal of pay and perks would be a good start) so that they might begin to set a good example? The BBC executives next.

  2. boggitsj

    Excellent. We get to delete Scunthorpe from the map again…

  3. Phil

    The map of Cuckoo Oak is to be banned (cos of the wording)

    • Roberto

      Never mind that area of the country Camerloon and his chums in London needs to be banned and never heard of again, why you ask……..

      Back Passage, London (alleyway in the EC1 postal district)
      Cumming Street, (Greater London N1)

      Cockfoster, (Barnett, London) There are also about a dozen more “cock” variations just in London such as Cock Pond, Calpham Common

      Titley Close, (London E4)

      Bellenden Road, (London, Peckham)

      As just a few examples.

      Extend it to the UK wide and they better ban every area directory look up engine on the web other wise there are a billion URLs out there which are legit like.
      yourlocalweb.co.uk/dorset/shitterton/map/

      Wikipedia will also need to be removed entirely due to having the actual subject matter in its URLs like.

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twatt,_Shetland

      I imagine there is also another page mentioning the same word but describing the government itself.

  4. Darren

    We need to vote this lot out, they are hell bent on pointless censorship. Someone somewhere must be lining their pockets for them to be letting this madness continue.

    Adrian Kennard for prime minister, he talks a lot of sense. The goverment would do well to listen to him before the UK kicks off to take back it’s freedom.

  5. cyclope

    What about place names in Germany and Austria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucking,_Austria and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wankum ? Are they going to re name these places ?

    Time that unelected pompus warmongering richard head AKA the current PM, was given his marching orders out of government now, why wait until the next gerneral election ?

  6. dragoneast

    Sorry Adrian, but to ask any MP to address the cause rather than some superficial symptom is as futile as asking a dog to stop defecating.

  7. hmm

    god the internet is for adults not kids or weak minded idiots

    makes you blood boil do gooders help this country is crap

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