September 15-16 2021. Online

Blocking does not solve illicit content problem


Participants at TLDCON 2018 discussed domain space security, registrar relations with copyright holders and the advantages of national domains compared to new gTLDs

The ‘Security: Domain Name vs. Content’ session that opened the business program at TLDCON 2018 had a very high-profile attendance, according to moderator Mikhail Anisimov (Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ). The speakers included representatives from ICANN, SDF analytical center (Canada), iThreat cybercrime investigation agency (US), Group-IB, and the Technical Center of Internet. The agenda somehow resembled the plot of the Minority Report movie (2002). Is it possible to prevent a crime when it is only in the making and is it possible to expose perpetrators based on typical mistakes?

The discussion came down to the question of whether it is the responsibility of registrars to evaluate content and decide on blocking it. John Crain of ICANN noted that every participant – registrars, internet providers and law enforcement – play their own role in fighting illicit content. “Somehow people think that if you remove domain names as identifiers the content will disappear. But it doesn’t and by blocking content based on identifiers, we are not solving the problem.”

Alexander Venedyukhin (Technical Center of Internet) agreed with him and presented a report on blocking illicit content and its relation to internet connectivity. “Delegation is only an access opportunity while TLD only sees second-level domains. Also, the domain research does not say anything about the resources that don’t use the common DNS, that is the many popular messengers and mobile apps,” he noted.

Norm Ritchie (Secure Domain Foundation), on the contrary, advocated a proactive approach to combat illicit content, that is, to take preventive measures, act faster and respond to potentially illegal activity. Jeffrey Bedser (iThreat Cyber Group) spoke about the company’s analytical and forecasting methods to prevent newly registered domains from misuse. He noted that one new problem is to completely eradicate the criminal infrastructure that continues to function even after the criminals are arrested.  

The session participants once again recognized the Netoscope project and the institute of competent organizations started by the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ. Pavel Shepetina of Group-IB reported on progress in blocking malicious domain names in the Russian domain zone. “Over 3,000 domain names used for phishing, spam and other purposes were blocked in cooperation with the Coordination Center. But.RU/.РФ cleanup is not our only job. It is impossible to stop distribution of malicious content and we must monitor similar domains in other zones.”

The session on the legal issues of domain registration moderated by Marina Rozhkova (IP CLUB) stirred up a heated debate on whether registrars can be recognized information mediators with the right to block violating websites upon requests from copyright holders without a court order.

A representative of copyright holders spoke at TLDCON for the first time. Ekaterina Kalinicheva, Intellectual Property Protection Manager at the Semenov&Pevzner law firm (represents Warner Music and Sony Music in Russia) noted that a number of courts recognized registrars as information mediators. Copyright holders have tried this strategy and have won their lawsuits. Kalinicheva was opposed by Deputy Legal Director of the CCTLD Sergey Kopylov. He argued that cancelling domain name delegation would not block illicit content. Experts from Belarus, Serbia and Ukraine joined the debate and talked about resolving domain disputes upon copyright holders’ requests in their countries. Specifically, Dejan Dukic (RNIDS) said Serbian registrars had developed a new policy regarding domain disputes in .RS and .СРБ: “We not only deal with domain name disputes but also certain rules and regulations. But when it comes to blocking websites for illicit content, Serbian registrars usually respond that they have nothing to do with the content.”

The first day of the conference finished with the Second Wind of ccTLDs session by Dana Ludviga (NIC.LV). The session focused on the impact of new gTLDs on traditional general and national domains. “Now that there are so many new gTLDs, we had to implement change and adjust to new conditions,” she noted. Michaela Cruden (Afilias) agreed: “New gTLDs have won the market that we have been fighting for. Of course, we can’t compete with their relevance but we hope to at least take a reasonable slice.” She said that social media have become a new way of reaching users and new gTLDs fit into this paradigm perfectly. Therefore, it has become more difficult for registrars to work. “Not only ccTLDs but the entire industry is waiting for the second wind when the domain market begins growing again,” Cruden stressed.

Andrey Kuzmichyov (RU-CENTER) explained the success of new gTLDs. “Traditionally, new gTLDs entered the markets after ссTLDs, which allowed them to adopt best practices and win the market. For example, they are much more active in terms of cooperation with registrars and marketing.”

Not all the participants supported this pessimistic opinion. Roman Selchenok ( noted that Belarus does not have any problems with registration in the .BY and .БЕЛ domain zones. There is also no conflict between the national domains and new gTLDs. New gTLDs are often bought in addition to national domains. There is also no serious impact from new gTLDs on the .UA domain zone, according to Svetlana Tkachenko.

For a domain name to grow, it is necessary to use latest data processing tools, for example, use Big Data for developing marketing strategies, assign weight coefficients to various factors and conduct in-depth analysis of sales statistics. Ivan Timofeyev, representative of a new domain name, .ART, demonstrated this fundamental approach.

TLDCON 2018 will continue tomorrow. Tune in for live streaming.

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