Verisign, the company that oversees .com and .net domains, has submitted a request to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the authority to revoke website registrations at the request of US law enforcement officials—with or without a court order.
Verisign wants the power to shut down domains based on court orders as well as “laws, government rules or requirements, requests of law enforcement or other governmental or quasi-governmental agency, or any dispute resolution process.”
While Verisign claims it is seeking sites harboring malware, the company’s power grab is worrying. Verisign has already demonstrated it’s more than willing to blindly comply with US law enforcement requests.
Earlier this year, Richard O’Dwyer, a 23-year-old student from the United Kingdom, was threatened with extradition to the United States to face piracy charges for running a website displaying links to sites with copyrighted material. The fact that O’Dwyer was not a US citizen, and that his site was hosted on servers outside the country, did not concern US law enforcement.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Aden Fine told tech site Ars Technica: “The default shouldn’t be ‘take down first.’ Any time the government is involved in seizing websites, that raises serious First Amendment issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s a private company pushing the button.”
Verisign did not respond to a request for comment.