Ruolo dei registri nell’emergenza COVID e modelli di governance

7 Oct 2020 14:00h - 15:00h

Event report

This session looked into promoting and raising awareness about the critical role that national Internet registries have had since the very beginning of the Internet. European registries have worked to expand the Internet as key actors, but have not been recognised as such, noted Mr Andrea Beccalli (Stakeholder Engagement Director – Europe, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)). It is important to recognise the work of Internet registries and how they have contributed to important national debates regarding the Internet, as their work often occurs ‘behind the scenes’. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the role of the Internet in everyday functions. While ICANN observed a spike in traffic on domain name systems (DNS), no other issues have been observed. This speaks to the resilience and the strength of the underlying structures of the Internet.

Mr Roelof Meijer (CEO, Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN)), said that .nl currently runs 6.1 million registered domains. They are one of the largest registries in the world, despite being a relatively small country. They contribute to the community on a daily basis by:

  • Working on the quality, security, and innovation of the Internet;
  • Fighting fake web shops, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) prevention, and the notice and takedown (N&TD);
  • Promoting the use of safe Internet standards;
  • Working on research, including the scalability, stability, security, and future of the Internet; and
  • Collaborating, promoting, sponsoring, and financing Internet activities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, .nl has seen an overall increase in DNS traffic, with a steep increase after the initial lockdown, as well as more registrations and less cancelations. Meijer notes that only a small number of COVID-related domains have been registered. They engage with the local community, but also collaborate with the European Commission (EC) and European Parliament (EP). In their work, Meijer says, they act in a responsible way, making the Internet safer for users ‘before the government starts putting pressure on us’.

Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération (AFNIC) was created in 1997 and works under contract with the French government. It manages the .fr top level domain (TLD) with more than 3 million .fr domain names. Currently, it is managing 17 projects for new generic top-level domain (gTLDs), including .paris and .bzh. Their board is composed of government representatives and individuals from the local internet community in equal parts. Mr Pierre Bonis (CEO, AFNIC, France) said that at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown there was an increase of DNS queries. Users submitted a lot of questions related to websites selling fake goods and building fake online shops. The registry has an obligation to deal with these abuses faster than before, which necessitates a change of working habits. Therefore, AFNIC signed an agreement with the French consumer protection agency. AFNIC has started to block websites within 24 hours of receiving a complaint regarding a domain suspected of abuses, rather than deleting them, as part of its more comprehensive efforts in fully investigating complaints. Bonis gave the example of ‘’ which specialised in selling fake health goods. Overall, there is simply an increased need to act more responsibly towards society.

The Portuguese registry, .pt, is made up of a team of 23 people, with 104 national and foreign registrars, and over 1.3 million domains. They are involved in a number of initiatives and have an obligation to contribute to the use of the Internet by the Portuguese community. The Portuguese government entrusted them with the task to increase digital skills at the national level. Their roadshow project ‘I am digital’ provides basic training for the use of the Internet across the country. The vehicle used for this initiative is equipped with computers and Internet access for people to come to learn about and create their own email accounts and social media profiles, use Google search, and other basic Internet activities. The Confio project, launched last year, helps users verify whether their website comply with all relevant requirements (i.e. regulations governing e-commerce, etc. Ms Marta Moreira Dias (Chair Of The Board Of Directors at .pt, Portugal) says that even as the team has worked from home since March, they have not observed any negative impacts on the organisation. They have almost 50,000 new .pt domains since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have collaborated with Portugal’s cybersecurity agency (CNCS) and the government on the monitoring and reporting of COVID-related registrations. She noted that there is no need for the increase of capacity, whether it be personnel or technical related. .pt has recorded only three DNS violations. All three cases were related to appropriating Netflix trademarks. In addition, .pt has supported educational initiatives, donated computers to school, supported anti-piracy campaigns, and initiated the SOS Digital project in collaboration with the Internet Society (ISOC) Portugal chapter.

In April 1986, the first Italian connection to the Internet occurred. The following year, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) recognised the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) .it and assigned its management to the Italian National Research Council (CNR). Since the pandemic started, the Italian registry has undertaken multiple actions:

  • Defined a contingency plan to guarantee the continuity of registration services in case of national lockdown;
  • Shifted some registry activities to work from home;
  • Moved all registry personnel moved to work from home without any disruption to domain name registration activities (they only temporarily suspended re-assignment procedures and audits of the subjective requirements of domain names); and
  • Currently alternate between in-situ and smart working (50-50 split).

Mr Marco Conti (Director, .it registry) said that during the COVID-19 pandemic the registry started an observatory to monitor the registration of COVID-related domain names (containing COVID-related words). Only about 20% of .it domains registered are in relation to COVID-19. This includes domains that contain news about the virus, health information, and sale of protective products. Some of them might hide phishing activities, spread malware, or fake news. Conti said that the emergency situation has made Internet users more vulnerable. He noted that the .it steering committee has implemented two actions:

  1. To cope with the possible cash-flow problems of the registrars, they suspended payments for the renewal of domain names until the end of June.
  2. They reduced the cost of new registrations by 20% from 2 July to 31 December.

Conti concludes that the registry did not observe Internet traffic spikes and that there was no service disruption. Marketing and other awareness raising activities have also been moved online.