Neustar, PIR, Verisign Join NTIA In Battle Against Illegal Opioid Distribution

Neustar, Public Interest Registry (PIR) and Verisign have joined the United States government in a battle against illegal opioid distribution. With almost $6 billion in new funding over the past 2 years, multiple programs have been funded to stop the flow of these dangerous drugs, and help those struggling with addiction.

The latest step is the Food and Drug Administration and NTIA have joined in a novel approach to work with domain name industry players to curb online availability and sales of illegal opioids.

As part of the effort, Neustar, the company that administers the .us top level domain on behalf of the Department of Commerce, announced it will step up enforcement of those who violate its existing ban on the sale or distribution of illegal opioids.

Neustar is using advanced search tools that can detect high-risk keywords in domain name strings. When a site is found to be in violation, Neustar works with relevant authorities to determine an outcome, which may include removing it from the DNS or deleting the domain name.

One policy that Neustar is using in .us is the Acceptable Use Policy which among other things, prohibits use of a registered .us domain name for the sale and distribution of pharmaceuticals. Enforcing these policies requires a dual proactive and reactive approach, which Neustar says they undertake continuously to identify and address policy-related issues. Reactive measures include investigating reports from third parties, such as the FDA, law enforcement and the public, while proactively Neustar reviews domain name string for high-risk keywords, such as ‘opioid,’ using advanced search tools to find and flag domain strings containing keywords for further investigation.

Following the discovery of a site being used in violation of the Acceptable Use Policy, Neustar works with relevant authorities within the structure of its policies to determine an appropriate course of action, which from a domain name perspective may include placing the domain on ‘serverHold’ (removing it from the DNS) or deleting the domain name.

Following a keyword string review, over 500 .us domain names were flagged for manual review with 6 sites (3 opioids and 3 steroids) were later placed on serverHold with systems developed to provide ongoing monitoring of threat.

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The FDA and NTIA are working with other key entities that have a role in the registration of domain names, including Verisign, which oversees .com, and Public Interest Registry, which manages .org, on a framework focused on reducing the availability of opioids illegally offered for sale online.

It also will help increase transparency and accountability in the domain name system and inform future conversations about “trusted notifier” programs expected to take place at ICANN.