Nominet makes formal call for Soca takedown views

The UK registry has asked for opinions about a suggestion by the Serious Organised Crime Agency that police should have the power to take down UK websites suspected of criminal activity
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

UK internet registry Nominet has formally called for opinions on potential legal powers for fast takedowns of websites and domains, following proposals by the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

The call, which asks interested parties to examine whether Nominet should change its terms and conditions to be able to take down domains at the request of the police, was launched on Wednesday.

As a registry, we have a clear view to make the internet more trusted
– Eleanor Bradley, Nominet

"How much power to give law enforcement [to take down websites] is what everybody needs to be talking about," Nominet director of operations Eleanor Bradley told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "Transparency around process and appeals mechanisms are exactly what we need to look at."

The policy change, suggested by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), would allow Nominet takedown powers if police or Nominet suspected that a domain was being used by criminals.

Bradley said that she did not want to pre-suppose any conclusions that the Nominet board may come to, but as a registry Nominet did not at present have any specific concerns about the proposed extension of police powers.

"As a registry, we have a clear view to make the internet more trusted," said Bradley.

Digital rights organisation the Open Rights Group (ORG) said that criminal websites should be taken down, but that the police should not have unchecked takedown powers.

"There has to be judicial oversight, the right to appeal and object, and a put-back procedure," ORG director Jim Killock told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "All police authorities make mistakes, and if a site is taken down in error, or maliciously, then people's rights have been infringed."

Law enforcement requesting to take a site down is not due process, said Killock, who added that a registry takedown should be a last resort, after contacting ISPs and registrars.

"The question is balancing the need for speed, and potential abuse," said Killock.

Nominet has been running an informal consultation process since October. The formal call for comments will close on 23 February.

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