back to article Why Nominet disconnected 1,000 sites with no court oversight

The body responsible for the .uk internet addresses disconnected over 1,200 websites without any oversight from a court. The much-publicised action last month was based only on police assertions about criminal activity on the sites. Two Nominet executives have told technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio that it severed the …


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  1. Sir Runcible Spoon


    To paraphrase Numptynet..

    "The ends justified the means"

    Oh, well that's alright then, thanks for further eroding our judicial system into one of speculation and rumour without judicual oversight.


    Apologies for shouting, but I really think these people are deaf as well as stupid.

    If it was so justified, why didn't the police get a judge to sign a warrant to get them shut down, would have taken, what, a couple of hours for something so apparently serious?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Well, there you have it

    Preventive policing by nominet acting on a straw man, and if you don't complain, or they ignore your complaint, then that justifies their actions. Especially that last bit is the kicker.

    If it really was about false or out-of-date address information, then please be consequent about that. Otherwise, it's playing judge (see lack of court order) under false pretenses.

  3. Tim J

    Can't see the big deal

    I really cant' get fussed over this one and see what the big deal is - these domains were basically being used by crooks, and they'd failed to comply with Nominet rules by giving false registration information.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      "these domains were basically being used by crooks"

      I work for the Police.

      I say that Tim J is a villian.

      Everyone disown him ,including his employer, and take away any kids he might have, don't ever let him travel on a plane again either.

      See the problem yet Tim?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Allegation is Proof of Guilt?

      One day, you might find yourself in the dock, accused of some crime you didn't commit. But what will the jury think?

      "I really can't get fussed over this one and see what the big deal is," one juror will say during the jury's deliberations. "Tim J is basically a crook." After all, the police said so, didn't they?

      The right to justice, due process and a fair trial exists to protect us from people like you.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Bogus, bogus, bogus...

      > these domains were basically being used by crooks,

      Evidence? You can't point to how many people DIDN'T complain. I mean actual evidence. The sort of decent solid evidence that would convince a judge to sign a warrant to permit these domains to be taken down.

      Oh, oops, I think we skipped that part...

      > and they'd failed to comply with Nominet rules by giving false registration information.

      Plenty of people give false registration information. Why don't you try a whois on a variety of sites. Not companies, but private people who at the very least don't fancy having their name address and telephone number publically available to the entire planet. I've a friend who has entered his address as Bart Simpson, Springfield... You can argue that this is bad etc etc. Argue with somebody else I know that abandoned his mobile after receiving a serious of extremely unpleasant phone calls after he blogged about a certain religious group (and dear police din't bother to access GSM information to locate the caller, in fact they did nothing at all). Trust is something that needs to be earned, it isn't an automatic right. And, sorry, if contact details are going to be made globally available, its kinda hard to trust the entire world.

      1. Rasczak

        False Information @ heyrick

        If your "friend" has a domain and someone reports it then they should expect it also to be suspended. Of course all he has to do is request that his details are withheld as he is a UK individual and they will not be shown on a whois.

        Of course if you knew anything about this subject you would know that already, as you don't I think we can safely ignore anything else you have to say.

  4. Matt 21

    All very well

    if you're not one of the innocent ones whose business has now been severely impacted. That's why the courts should always be involved.

  5. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    I am the Law...

    If the police (and Nominet) think they can do this without a court order, then it looks like they are now using the Judge Dredd rule book. Which would also explain why these days the UK is feeling like its starting to be run by an authoritarianism police state.

    "If you provide false details or they are out of date for some reason then that enables us to have an investigation and suspend until we're happy that everything is well,"

    Yeah right, at the very least thats gaming the law to get what they want. Sorry your shoelace is undone, I am the law, you are judged.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a tough world out there

    Domains being pulled on a technicality / breach of contract are pretty much "tough luck" but that doesn't mean that all breaches of such contracts willingly came about or were for fraudulent or nefarious purposes.

    I haven't registered any domains recently but in the past never gave correct details as this was information put into the public domain and easily accessible ( not sure if that applies to Nominet though ). The last thing I wanted was someone aggrieved by a domain or web site getting my name and address and taking it upon themselves to pay me a visit.

    There are other cases where being publicly associated with a domain may be detrimental to employment, CRB checks and other legitimate activities.

  7. Neil Hoskins

    Utter Bollocks

    If I see somebody breaking into my neighbour's house, do I have to wait for a court order before I do anything about it? Utter apathy from EVERYBODY on internet crime is astonishing. If it were up to me, the sites would get taken down instantly then the hosting companies prosecuted at a later date for aiding and abetting.

    1. PsychicMonkey

      ok then..

      how about this. I tell the police that your shop is selling illegal stuff. They tell your landlord that your shop is selling illegal stuff, they lock your doors so you can't open the shop and sell stuff. You have had no chance to defend yourself, they re-open it in a few days as they were wrong but you have lost sales and your reputation is damaged. see a problem here?

      Comparing it to someone breaking into your neighbours house is stupid, this isn't apathy on internet crime.

      The utter apathy of our rights being eroded is astonishing.

      Try this one, Arrest a sample of 2000 people. Some of them will have done something illegal so the end's justify the means.....

      Would that bother you?

    2. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Er, no

      That analogy is utter twaddle and you sir are a fool. Please surrender your right to vote on the way out - we wouldn't want Gordon getting back in again because you think he's a fantastic handler of the nation's purse strings or some other such dribble.

    3. MinionZero
      Big Brother

      @Neil Hoskins

      The police have a *legal right* to arrest somebody breaking into your neighbour's house.

      The police *have_not_been* *granted_the_rights* to punish web site owners without court order. Taking down a web site is punishment. The police have not been granted the right to punish, and so while arrest feels like punishment, legally its not punish. The arrest is to take someone to court so that they can then be punished, *if_the_court_decides* they need to be punished. (Its not perfect but its a lot better than one person granted the full power of police, judge and jury because thats a nightmare because with that much power there is a risk someone could behave like a mini-dictator. That is why police and courts are separate).

      The police are not there to punish. That is the role of the courts in society. Like it or loath it, thats the way it is for good reason. Police cannot be allowed to be police, judge and jury. Freedom of speech is a right that police cannot take away, if they could they instantly create a Police State that is punishing Thought Crime. That creates the danger that whatever people say, they end up living in fear they could be in danger of punishment.

      Neil Hoskins, is that the world you want?. Think very carefully before you answer, as the wrong choice is very dangerous. Freedom of speech is vital. Yes it means suffering the bad as well as the good free speech, but the flip side with no free speech and so just selectively allowed speak creates an utter nightmare. (The reason it creates an utter nightmare is because everyone in politics seeks power over others, (regardless of which party they are in), resulting in this continuous push towards an ever more Authoritarian control. Worse still, Authoritarianism always slides into Totalitarianism when freedom of speech is increasingly repressed as it is now. Only freedom of speech can push back against the people in power to provide a feedback mechanism to limit their excesses).

      Therefore, Neil Hoskins, its people like you who are allowing the police to decide who to punish, and so your kind are helping make the Police State worse. A good example of this is the whole Domestic Extremist(tm) concept where the police most definitely are acting like, police, judge and jury. They decide who is a domestic extremist, they then place that *unofficial* title on their records, then every other police officer uses the sight of that label to violate the persons privacy, liberty and freedom. The concept of domestic extremist sounds all well and good until you get arrogant police using it to label and punish people who have done no wrong. People have been locked up for days and then not charged. The courts do not recognize the concept of domestic extremist. Legally it doesn't exist. Yet people are being relentlessly punished by it and freedom of speech is being crushed by it. Some people are getting even afraid to speak their minds for fears of what it could mean to their lives and their jobs. Thats not a happy society to be in. Thats a dangerous slide into Authoritarianism.


  8. Ally J
    Big Brother

    Not a good sign, to be honest

    Bent sites or not, the idea of Nominet taking down sites because a policeman says they're illegal is a bit iffy.

    The only way to test this opinion appears to be to complain, and only 10% of the complainants get their domains back.

    And the Met are hardly a shining example of 'getting it right' in all cases.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh what a surprise

    More proof, if it were needed, that we live in a police state.

    No wonder nobody has any respect for the forces of "law" and whatever-they-feel-like-doing-you-for this week.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    What is wrong with this?

    In a police state there is no longer the need for inconvenient things like court orders. I don't understand why everone is getting upset/

    I can hear the plods over at the evil empire called The Metropolitan Police State "Just do it 'cos we are the lawmakers now."

  11. Peter Methven

    Its about time Nominet started to enforce their Ts & Cs

    I don't see anything wrong with what nominet did here... as part of an ongoing police investigation they temporarily shutdown (and held shutdown pending further contact from domain owners) over a thousand sites that were being investigated, which were in breach of the Nominet rules and regulations.

    In my opinion if you register a site with incorrect contact details in breach of the contract your site SHOULD be shutdown, even without police investigations. If only two sites were incorrectly shut down thats a pretty good accuracy in my opinon, I doubt whether our courts get that level of accuracy.

  12. Bassey

    Police state blah blah meh

    Read the damn article. Yes, the police complained. But the sites were taken down because of a breach of contract. No court order required. Where's the police state? You sign a contract which states, if you don't play by the rules, we cut you off. They broke the rules, they were cut off. The fact it assisted the police is a happy side-effect.

    Had the police come to Nominet, asked for them to be cut-off, Nominet had discovered no breaches and THEN cut them off anyway - you would have a genuine grievance. As it is, get back under your tin-foil-coated rocks and stop screaming "fascist police state" every time someone gets of their arse and does something useful.

    Jesus, if you saw some bloke on your flight wearing plastic explosive, fiddling with a switch, I swear half of you would demand a high-court injunction, filled in triplicate and signed by Elvis before you'd get off your backsides and read them the terms and conditions of carriage.

  13. Sweeping Brush

    Thank you mr policeman.

    The Police pointed out a number of domains to Nominet,

    Nominet investigated them and discovered the violated the agreed upon contract and suspended them,

    whats the problem?

    If Nominet had suspended properly registered and valid domains without a court order then step on them, but in this case, the police told them something, the looked at the domains, found they were wrongly registered and suspended them.

    anyone that was affected could have simply updated their details with valid details and got turned back on again. As has happened with the valid ones that were suspended.

  14. Antony Riley

    Oh ffs,

    If it wasn't the police that had told nominet about the domains being used for criminal purposes, and they pulled them for breach of contract we'd all be praising nominet, for giving a shit.

    The sites were taken down for breach of contract, if you breach a contract, you can't complain when it gets pulled, this is life.

    1. Igor Mozolevsky


      IANAL, but AFAIK, breach of contract does not void the contract, hence there is a possibility that Nominet's actions could lead to compensation claims. There is also an interesting academic question as to whether there is any criminal liability in what could essentially be summed up as a denial of service attack...

  15. Tim J

    Nominet are enforcing their T&Cs

    No need for a court order to do that - their T&C's are part of the contract you agree to when you register a domain - if you fail to keep your side of the bargain (i.e. provide proper registration details) then they can suspend your domain.

    Or should Nominet have to go to court each time they want to uphold their T&Cs? If you say yes, then why shouldn't the same apply to any company? In which case the courts will be absolutely chock-a-block with silly court cases, and most business will probably decide it's not worthwhile any more, turn out the lights and go home.

  16. Sir Runcible Spoon


    For those of you who feel this isn't a problem ,just a breach of contract, consider this..

    How many domains on Nominet have out of date credentials listed against them?

    I suspect > 1000, so why weren't there more domains shut down?

    Oh, it was because the Police gave them a list of sites in the first place. So no, it isn't *just* a breach of contract - It's a police sponsored list of sites that are in breach of contract.

    I don't see anyone on here condoning internet crime, and it looks like they got a pretty good haul with this approach, but it's the EROSION OF OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM that is being objected to because through various little nooks and crannies they are bypassing any kind of oversight.

    In this one particular instance they appear to have done some good, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions as they say, and who knows what they will try next. That's the worrying bit for people who can see past the end of their nose and can predict future trends based on current events when placed against historical events.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Maybe the police supplied nominet with proof that the credentials supplied were false, which enabled nominet to act? It's not as if the site names were sold on the next day, any legit business would be able to contact niminet and kick up a massive stink about their loss of service and have their site brought back online PDQ, I wonder if this has happened at all?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Wipe their ass for them

    Or... Nominet's registration procedures are so lax, they don't notice incorrect registrations until someone points it out to them...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought it was standard practice give incorrect details? As I understand things, registrars insist on your correct details purely so that they can blackmail you thereafter with the "stump up for 'identity protection' or we'll publish your address and phone number for the entire universe to abuse". Much simpler to lie glibly on the form in the first place and cut out the middleman.

    1. copsewood

      Easy enough to use an agent's business address

      If you don't want your personal address published on whois then you can use the address of an agent easily enough, e.g. a small ISP acting on your behalf. Good idea to register yourself as the owner of the domain. As far as I'm aware this meets Nominet's contractual requirements. I remember being contacted by Nominet to confirm contact details a couple of years ago of a .uk domain, though the fact they didn't have these wan't my oversight, and I think they have tightened up since.

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  20. Anonymous Coward

    I are confuse

    I'm not sure what exactly happened here. Was it like this?

    Police: These 2000+ domains are being used for criminal purposes.

    Nominet: Oh.

    Police: And they, erm, gave you false info.

    Nominet: Right we'll suspend them pending investigation then. We'll start with this one:

    Police: Why not suspend them all now?

    Nominet: It'll take a while to investigate them all, that's a long time for some of them to be down when we don't even know if they're fraudulent.

    Police: Why not suspend them all now?

    Nominet: It'll take a while to inv... oh, right. OK then.

    Then 20 customers see that something is wrong, so they complain. 2 get their domains back.

    Who are these 18 who allegedly gave false details to register a domain which they used for criminal purposes, who then complained? Could these be legit, still wondering wtf is going on?

  21. MinionZero

    Nominet legal boss quits!

    At first I overlooked this other bit of Nominet legal news. The timing of this legally very questionable disconnection news today, is very interesting following only a few working days after the news about the old Nominet legal head leaving!..."

    e.g. "Emily Taylor, Nominet's long-serving legal and policy director, has resigned. The non-profit company in charge of the .uk domain registry declined to explain her departure."


    Very interesting timing. What was going on at Nominet for her to feel she needed to leave?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The old Al Capone treatment

    No problems, if you can't get them one way be a bit creative and shut them down LEGALLY another way. Plus it saves public expenditure which should please all you right wing types (but obviously doesn't because you won't be happy until the world is run exactly to your liking).

  23. Octopoid

    Can't say either way

    We haven't got enough details here to correctly say whether this was right or wrong. i.e.

    A) The police phone Nominet, and say these 1200 people are criminals. Nominet say "OK then, sir" and immediately suspend them. Wrong.

    B) The police phone Nominet and say "we we're messing about with whois and found 1200 UK sites registered to Mickey Mouse". Nominet then check, it's true, so they suspend them. Right.

    If they police were merely bringing a publicly visible breach of terms and conditions to Nominets attention, it's fine. I could do that, or you, or your buisness. Doesn't matter. If Nominet have suspended accounts soley on the polices word, then it's a miscarriage of justice.

    Without knowing whether the police were merely reporting someone, just like anyone else could do, or throwing their weight around, you can't say whether this was right or wrong.

  24. Graham Marsden

    Paging Constable Savage...

    Inspector: Savage, why do you keep arresting this man?

    Savage: He’s a villain, sir.

    Inspector: A villain …

    Savage: And a jailbird.

    Inspector: I know he’s a jailbird, Savage! He’s down in the cells now. We are holding him on a charge of possession of curly black hair and thick lips!

    Savage: Well… there you are, sir.

    Inspector: You arrested him, Savage!

    Savage: Thank you, sir.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Why should the police need a warrant to do something you or I can do without one?

    This whole suggestion that the police should have had a warrant or that this is some kind of abuse of police power sounds utterly nonsensical. The police filed a spam report, the registrar took a quick look at the evidence, found they were all bogus registrations, and shut down the domains.

    This is exactly what happens when you or I file a spam report. Websites get shut down for ToS violations every single day of the week without "any oversight from a court". The judicial system has never had any role in this so nothing is being eroded.

    If the police had fabricated their evidence, or if they had concealed a bunch of controversial political websites in amongst the spammers, you'd have something to argue with their actions over, but there's been not the slightest suggestion that that took place. You have no grounds that I can see for arguing that this is evidence of a police state or that the police have the ability to perform arbitrary censorship.

    You may well have a beef with Nominet, who by their own admission took a lot of the police's claims at face value without as thorough an investigation as they'd usually perform. They shouldn't give more credence to the police just because they're the police, they should do the same as they would for any other spam report. But, they still investigated enough to try and contact the domain owners and discover how many of their contact details were false.

    So I don't see any need to go making a constitutional crisis out of this. And I'm a civil libertarian and a member of no2id and thoroughly opposed to any further extension of the police's powers or erosion of our rights or the presumption of innocence, but I really don't think any of those things are happening here. (It's a bit like the photography argument: you can't really object to what FIT are doing if you demand that /you/ have the right to photograph anything anywhere in public, since then so do they.)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have some more

    Dear Nominet

    The following listed domains are used by scheming, scamming, robbing bar-stewards. In addition to failing to provide promised products and/or services, they also hide by having incorrect address details listed with you, in some cases the address belongs to an accountant.


  27. Anonymous Coward

    Since when have the police

    taken it upon themselves to be responsible for identifying and enforcing a company's terms and conditions?

    In other words, what's it got to do with them?

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