A cross-industry body that will make it easier for web sites selling fake drugs to be shut down is forming in the US, led by Google and Go Daddy.
The idea for the currently nameless organization was announced yesterday following a series of meetings between the internet industry and White House officials.
The group will “start taking voluntary action against illegal Internet pharmacies” which will include stopping payment processing and shutting down web sites.
The domain name business is represented by the three biggest US registrars – Go Daddy, eNom and Network Solutions – as well as Neustar (.biz, .us, etc) on the registry side.
Surprisingly, VeriSign (.com) does not appear to be involved currently.
Other members include the major credit card companies – American Express, Visa and Mastercard – as well as PayPal and search engines Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.
According to a statement provided by Neustar:
GoDaddy and Google took the lead on proposing the formation of a private sector 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that would be dedicated to promoting information sharing, education, and more efficient law enforcement of rogue internet pharmacies.
It’s early days, so there are no specifics as yet as to how the organization will function, such as under what circumstances it will take down sites.
There’s no specific mention of domain names being turned off or seized, although reading between the lines that may be part of the plan.
There’s substantial debate in the US as to what kinds of pharmaceuticals sites constitute a risk to health and consumer protection.
While many sites do sell worthless or potentially harmful medications, others are overseas companies selling genuine pharma cheaply to Americans, who often pay a stiff premium for their drugs.
The organization will do more than just shut down sites, however.
It also proposes an expansion to white lists of genuine pharmacies such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies’ Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS).
And it will promote consumer education about the “dangers” of shopping for drugs online, as well as sharing information to stop the genuine bad guys “forum shopping” for places to host their sites.
This is what the statement says about enforcement:
The organization’s members agree to share information with law enforcement about unlawful Internet pharmacies where appropriate, accept information about Internet pharmacies operating illegally, and take voluntary enforcement action (stop payment, shut down the site, etc.) where appropriate.
While taking down sites that are selling genuinely harmful pills is undoubtedly a Good Thing, I suspect it is unlikely to go down well in that sector of the internet community concerned with the US government’s increasing role in removing content from the internet.