Legal war heats up over porn claims

The domain administration for the Pacific island nation of Niue is so incensed by a study which says its sites are amongst the most prolific sources of pornography online that it has threatened legal action.As ZDNet Australia  reported last week, sites using .

The domain administration for the Pacific island nation of Niue is so incensed by a study which says its sites are amongst the most prolific sources of pornography online that it has threatened legal action.

As ZDNet Australia  reported last week, sites using .nu domain names were the third most common source of pornography in a study of Web pages carried out by filtering software vendor Secure Computing. While Australia ranked one place higher than Niue in the study, much of the press coverage of the results concentrated on the apparent preponderance of adult content from Niue-named domains.

.NU Domain, the US company which has sold around 100,000 .nu names to date, quickly issued a press release in which it outlined plans to sue Secure Computing. It also threatened legal action against several publications which reported on the study.

Despite the threats, a spokesperson for Secure Computing said no formal legal complaint had been received from .NU Domain. .NU Domain president J. William Semich told ZDNet Australia  that he had contacted attorneys to consider the company's next step.

Semich's main criticism of the study is that it includes a large number of pages from sites which are no longer active. According to Semich, more than 6,000 domain names under .nu have been deregistered for failing to comply with its policies. The largest market for .nu domains is in Sweden (where 'nu' means 'now').

While the company's original statement claimed that no pornographic pages had ever existed in the .nu space, Semich conceded that sites featuring adult content using .nu domain names did still exist. "I admit some pornographic Web pages using the .nu domain name probably do occur, just not in the extremely inflated number given by Secure Computing," he said. Sites which hosted adult content would be deregistered when their current term expired, he added.

The approach taken by the Secure study has also been criticised by other market observers. "It's not helpful to characterise the size of the problem by the number of pages," said Chris Disspain, chief executive officer of .au Domain Administration. "They are not a valuable, sensible or helpful measure of what's going on." Like Semich, Disspain is concerned that confusion will arise between the registration of a domain name and where the site is actually hosted.

Secure Computing told ZDNet Australia  it stood by the methodology used in the study.

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