An Internet Proposal Could Make Harassment So Much Worse

by Alice Lawton

A new proposal that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is considering could mean hell for some domain owners. Currently, when you register a domain, you are required to provide a host of  personal information, including your mailing address, a phone number, and your email address. Anyone can look that information up on Luckily for those who would like a bit more privacy, there are companies you can pay to hide your information for you. However, this new proposal could take away that privacy for many domain owners.

Commercial websites would no longer be allowed privacy, but ICANN’s definition of a commercial website isn’t quite clear. Small-business owners or people who simply run Google ads or accept donations on their personal websites may no longer be allowed to hide their personal information.

Now, at first this proposal sounds good. If you give money to someone or buy something online, you want to make sure the websites are legitimate, right? If something goes wrong with your transaction, you want to be able to directly contact someone in charge, right? Of course. Unfortunately, many people are using information available on Whois to “doxx” people.

Doxxing is the practice of posting someone’s personal information on sites like Twitter, 4Chan, and Reddit and then harassing them. Internet trolls spam people’s text messages, order them ridiculous amounts of pizzas, and send SWAT teams to their house. 

The reasons for doxxing someone range from disagreeing with their political views to simply not liking them. The legality of doxxing is iffy—technically, it’s not hacking, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Because of this legal gray area, it’s important for small people on the internet to be able to protect their information. Currently, ICAAN has not made a decision on whether or not they will adopt this new policy. You can email ICAAN your input on the proposal until tomorrow at [email protected].

Image courtesy of Dennis Skley via Flikr


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