Go Daddy to stop registering .cn domain names

The Chinese government is demanding new information on domain owners, the company says

GoDaddy.com, the world's largest domain name registrar, will stop registering .cn domains in China after the government there has demanded personal information about people who have purchased domain names from GoDaddy in the past, the company said Wednesday during a hearing in the U.S. Congress.

GoDaddy's decision, announced at a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing, comes after the Chinese government has demanded that the registrar provide photo identification, business identification and physically signed registration for all .cn domains registered through GoDaddy.com in the six years the company has been operating in China, said Christine Jones, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for the Go Daddy Group, GoDaddy.com's parent company.

"We're concerned about the security of the individuals affected by [the] new requirements," Jones said. "Not only that, but we're concerned about the chilling effects we believe the requirements could have on new domain name registrations, and therefore, the free exchange of ideas on the Internet."

Previously, China's domain-name authority, CNNIC, had only required GoDaddy to collect the name, address and e-mail address of .cn customers, and that information is commonly provided when people register domain names worldwide, Jones said. CNNIC requested the additional personal information for all domain owners in February, and it appeared to GoDaddy that the Chinese government was trying to gain more control over who registers domain names, she added.

CNNIC told GoDaddy that if it did not provide the additional information, "the domain names were going to stop working," Jones said. "We have 40 million domain names under management. We've done this a lot. This is the first time any registry has ever asked use to retroactively obtain information on individuals who have registered domain names through our company."

GoDaddy.com's decision to scale back its Chinese business comes two days after Google stopped censoring search results, news information and photos in China. Members of the CECC praised both companies for taking a stand against Chinese censorship and surveillance.

GoDaddy will continue to offer service to its past .cn customers but will register no new .cn domains out of concern for the safety of customers, Jones said.

Google's decision to stop censoring its search results in China is a "remarkable, historic and welcomed action," said Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican. "Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people."

GoDaddy has several other complaints about doing business in China, Jones said. The company fought off "dozens" of denial-of-service attacks originating from inside China this year, she said.

In addition, an "overwhelming majority" of Web sites promoted by spam e-mail are hosted in China, and the Chinese government seems to be encouraging spamming as a business model, Jones said.

Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, said China wants global respect, but respected countries don't censor ideas or lock up citizens without trials.

"China wants to participate in the marketplace -- the marketplace of goods -- but to keep the marketplace of ideas outside of their country," he said. "Respected countries ... don't fear ideas or people or speech."

There were busy signals during multiple calls to the press office at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon.

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