Survey: Are domain registrars free-speech friendly?

MySpace successfully pressured one registrar into pulling the plug on a domain after a password list appeared. Would others follow suit?

Go Daddy's controversial decision last week to suspend the domain name of a popular computer security Web site did more than merely raise questions about the extent of free speech on today's Internet.

It also prompted owners of domain names to wonder about the reliability of their own registrars--and whether the domains they own are safe from suspension in the absence of a court order.

In response to requests from readers, CNET conducted the following survey of 12 leading registrars: DirectNIC; Dotster; eNom;; Go Daddy; Melbourne IT;; NameKing; Network Solutions; OnlineNIC;; and Tucows.

We found that the French registrar and New Orleans-based DirectNIC offered the most extensive guarantees against unnecessary domain name suspension.

DirectNIC said it would suspend a domain in the absence of a court order only if the content is "clearly focused on child porn or a phishing site." said it would take extensive steps to contact the owner of a domain name in advance.

Go Daddy, on the other hand, gave owner Fyodor Vaskovich only 52 seconds from the time the initial voicemail notification was left to the time the domain was marked as "suspended." That's according to a log of correspondence with Go Daddy that Vaskovich made public. Go Daddy made the request on behalf of MySpace, which said a list of usernames and passwords had been posted by a user to's Stephan Ramoin said someone claiming to be from MySpace also made the same request of his registrar last week. But because could not get in touch with MySpace, and "as we were not provided with any justification for the complaint, no action was taken," he said. (Meanwhile, Vaskovich has obtained the domain and is using it to publicize the situation.)

Following are verbatim responses to the 10-question survey from registrars that were contacted. Not all chose to answer the questions, however.


completed surveyDirectNIC is operated by Intercosmos Media Group, and is based in New Orleans. It offers Web hosting, POP e-mail accounts, and SSL certificates in addition to domain name registration. Domains are $15, with quantity discounts available if you're buying hundreds or thousands of domains.

1. Under what circumstances will you suspend a customer's domain name based on the content of his or her Web site, in the absence of a court order?

In the absence of a court order we will suspend a domain name based on the content if the domain name is clearly focused on child porn or a phishing site. As an example, we would not shut down if someone posted in a comment section a link to child porn hosted elsewhere. However, we would likely report the issue to CNET's abuse department so that they could take action.

2. How many times a month, on average, do you suspend a customer's domain name based on the content of his or her Web site?

Generally 20 to 50 domain names a month.

3. What are the most common reasons for suspension?

Child porn. Phishing. Credit card fraud. Often when we find illegal content like child porn or phishing (or that) the domain name was also registered using a stolen credit card. This provides an additional justification for suspending the domain name.

4. How many domain names do your customers currently have registered through you?

1.3 million.

5. Go Daddy last week suspended its customer's domain,, because of a complaint from MySpace. Would you have done the same thing in the same way if happened to be your customer?

No. Of course often a domain name will be "suspended" and it is not the fault of the registrar at all. We had a rash of complaints after we shut down a week ago. The site was shut down due to their failure to renew the domain name. This happened right as MySpace was announcing to the world that they would be making a big push into China. So the sword cuts both ways. MySpace can complain and convince Go Daddy to suspend domain names. But, they need to watch their domain registrations a little closer as well. Last Friday night I talked on the phone to someone from MySpace and we renewed the domain name for them. The domain name now resolves.

6. If you do suspend domain names in the absence of a court order, what procedures do you have in place to ensure that the customer is notified beforehand and given adequate opportunity to respond?

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