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VeriSign bars "offensive" Net name auctions

The company is halting some auctions of domain names related to last week's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

VeriSign on Wednesday said it is halting some auctions of domain names related to last week's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in an effort to remove sites it finds "offensive."

The move follows a weeklong rush by businesses and individuals to register domain names related to the disaster--some to commemorate the victims of the tragedy, and others to profit from its significance. Domain names registered since the attack varied from numerical ones such as 09112001.com and 09112001.net to Worldtradecenterdisaster.com and Worldtradecenterdisaster.org.

A VeriSign representative said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company began pulling sites from its domain name broker, GreatDomains.com, Tuesday night. "We have been delisting sites we find to be offensive in light of the events of last week," the representative said.

Although the company, which registers Internet names through its Network Solutions unit, would not provide a list of the sites pulled from its auction service, it confirmed that Twintowers09112001.com, which had an asking price of $65,000, had been removed.

"This process is ongoing, and we will continue to monitor the situation," the VeriSign representative said. The representative did not describe the parameters the company is using to decide which sites to remove.

Shonna Keogan, a spokeswoman for Register.com, one of the largest domain name registrars, said the New York-based company is monitoring its system for offensive domain names related to the attack but that it will not pull down a site based solely on the name.

"We are reviewing our policy, but we don't want to move too quickly," Keogan said. "It's hard to say if anyone will use these sites in an offensive way. Once they are up, and we see that they are being used in an offensive way, we would work with the host of the site to have it removed."

Although VeriSign and Register.com said there have been several people attempting to auction such domain names for profit, there are many owners who are trying to build memorial sites to the victims of the tragedy.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based owner of Worldtradecenter.com, for example, said offers to buy the domain name from individuals and companies have come from as far away as England--and have been turned down. The owner, who wished to remain unnamed, plans to turn the site into a memorial for victims of the disaster in New York or for the hundreds of emergency services personnel who lost their lives trying to rescue them.

"We would like to turn it over to the Red Cross or the State of New York for their firefighters they have lost," the owner said. "It is unbelievable how many offers we have received from people who want to buy the domain. One business in England offered us" over $1.47 million (1 million pounds).