The site’s content, including the header “Stephen Conroy: Minister for Fascism”, is now online at stephen-conroy.com instead, where auDA has no jurisdiction — although it’s hosted in the same location.
This take down was unusually fast. “Generally, such a deregistration/removal process takes a few weeks,” reportsiTWire.
“We didn’t even get a written copy of the take-down notice, it all happened so fast,” says Tim March, owner of the IT consultancy Sapia Pty Ltd, which registered the domain and one of the site’s driving forces.
March told Crikey that the registrar, Domain Central, phoned him about the take-down notice after experiencing email problems. March then phoned and emailed auDA, requesting an extension of their 5pm deadline.
But March says he called auDA about 30 minutes after receiving the notification.
“I must have spoken to auDA at around 1510 AEDT, which puts a rough estimate of the issue time around 1440 AEDT, which is obviously only 2h20m from issue to take down.”
Did Senator Conroy, or someone in his office, pressure auDA for a quick result?
“The Minister’s office made no request and took no other action in relation to the domain stephenconroy.com.au,” a spokesperson told Crikey — as is right and proper given auDA’s independence.
“Satire is an important part of any healthy democracy,” Conroy’s spokesperson said in response to the Fake Stephen Conroy Twitter account run by then-Telstra employee Leslie Nassar.
However, in October 2008, Conroy’s policy adviser Belinda Dennett did try to silence one of Conroy’s critics, network engineer Mark Newton, by asking the chair of the Internet Industry Association to pressure Newton through his employer.
March says Domain Central told him the normal process would be for auDA to contact them requesting the policy-based deletion.
“In this instance they apparently bypassed them and went straight to AusRegistry [who run the central domain name database] to pull the domain,” March said.
“They really wanted us gone.”
Crikey sought comment from auDA and Domain Central, but neither replied before our deadline.
Watchdog group Electronic Frontiers Australia says auDA have the right to enforce its rules, “though a three-hour turnaround on this dispute seems quite unusual”.
“This is perhaps another case study of why private regulation of the domain name system is flawed, in that it is wide open to private censorship,” EFA vice-chair Colin Jacobs told Crikey.
In this respect, the case resembles the 2006 take-down of Richard Neville’s spoof site johnhowardpm.org, although that site was taken down not by auDA but by registrar Melbourne IT, who later admitted it was “badly handled”.