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Verisign to crack down on Chinese domains

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2022, 09:04:48 (UTC), Domain Registries

Verisign has asked for permission to implement a more stringent regime for denying or suspending .com and .net domain names registered in China, to comply with the country’s strict licensing rules.

The changes appear to mean that customers of Chinese registrars who have not verified their identities, which Verisign says is a “very small percentage”, will be prevented from registering new domains and may lose their existing domains.

The company has filed a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN, proposing to tweak the registrant verification system it has had in place for the last five years in a few significant ways.

China has a system called Real Name Verification, whereby Chinese citizens have to provide government-issued ID when they register domains. Local, third-party Verification Service Providers such as ZDNS typically carry out the verification function for Verisign and other foreign registries.

The big change is that Verisign will no longer allow names to be registered without a valid code.

The RSEP says that attempts by China-based registrars to register domains without the required government verification code will result in the EPP create command failing, meaning the domain will not be registered.

Under the current system, outlined in a 2016 RSEP (pdf), the name is registered and Verisign presumably takes the money, but the domain is placed on serverHold status, meaning it is not published in the zone and will not resolve.

The new system will also allow Verisign to retroactively demand codes for already-registered names, when they come up for renewal or transfer, with the option to suspend or delete the names if the codes are not provided. The RSEP (pdf) states:

With regard existing domain names without the required verification codes, which currently comprise a very small percentage of domain name registrations from registrars licensed to operate in the People’s Republic of China, Verisign intends to address compliance issues with these domain names directly with registrars. Verisign reserves the right to deny, cancel, redirect or transfer any domain name registration or transaction, or place any domain name(s) on registry lock, hold or similar status

It’s not clear what a “very small percentage” means in hard numbers. A small slice of a big pie is still a mouthful.

Verisign has substantial exposure to the Chinese market. On the odd occasion when .com shrinks, it’s largely due to speculative registrations from China not being renewed, such as in the second quarter this year.

The RSEP names the service the Domain Name Registration Validation Per Applicable Law service. While it’s in theory applicable to any jurisdiction’s laws, in practice it’s all about addressing the demands of the Chinese government.

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Comments (1)

  1. John McCabe says:

    Verisign’s RSEP may provide a paradigm not only for other registrars seeking to comply with such registration restrictions, but also for registries seeking greater transparency regarding ownership of domains within their TLDs (including those in the next round).

    Indeed, China’s regulations digitally link a domain registration with a person’s (whether legal or natural) identity, and each domain registration must be linked accordingly.

    Similarly, the Impressum is a legally-mandated statement of ownership and responsibility in Germany. From the Latin impressum (“the impressed, engraved, pressed in, impression”) “is a legally mandated statement of the ownership and authorship of a document, which must be included in books, newspapers, magazines,[1][better source needed] websites,[2] and business correspondence[3] published or otherwise made available to consumers in Germany and certain other German-speaking countries, such as Austria and Switzerland. The Telemediengesetz (German, meaning ‘Telemedia Act’) mandates the use of an Impressum.”

    While the German-language Wikipedia has an Impressum, there is no equivalent for the English-language Wikipedia, though the German Impressum cross-links to Wikipedia’s General Disclaimer. Anyone who has ever been on the streets of a city where England has just played against the local football club has heard and seen what passes as acceptable among that society, and regardless of which team won.

    “Historically, the German Impressum requirement has its roots in the censorship laws of 19th century and earlier monarchies, and has been criticized as illiberal and contrary to the principle of free speech;[4] most other countries have no comparable requirement.” – Wikipedia

    Fair enough. But not every sovereign nation wishes to foster anarchy in the pursuit of liberality. It should not be surprising that the central government of a nation of 1.4 billion people sees the maintenance of civil order as THE top priority, nor that they continue the ancient and historical practice of placing the collective good over the rights of individuals to do, say, or publish whatever they wish, regardless of its veracity/fantasy/falsity. Personal accountability is the objective and, let’s face it, so is traceability (for whatever purpose).

    Nor should it be surprising that a polyglot continent which has historically been a warring one, in which pogroms, persecutions, genocide and enmity have featured front-and-center, places a higher value on personal privacy than those living on other continents may.

    Verisign’s move in this regard is a positive one, and one that is respectful of the country concerned. It appears they have discerned a way in which to accommodate special needs, and is seeking to do so through an RSEP.

    Hopefully their pioneering effort in this regard will foretell other successful efforts to encompass different values and points of view in ICANN’s “big tent,” working in concert within the multi-stakeholder rubric.

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