Facebook is attempting to crack down on ‘deceptive’ domain names that, it says, impersonate the company and can be used for scams and fraud.
The company is suing Arizona-based domain name registrar Namecheap, along with its proxy service, Whoisguard. Namecheap, it says, has been allowing customers to register domain names that imply they are affiliated with Facebook apps.
“These domain names can trick people into believing they are legitimate and are often used for phishing, fraud and scams,” says Christen Dubois, Facebook’s director and associate general counsel, IP litigation.
According to Facebook, Whoisguard registered or used 45 domain names that impersonated Facebook and its services, including instagrambusinesshelp.com, facebo0k-login.com and whatsappdownload.site.
“We sent notices to Whoisguard between October 2018 and February 2020, and despite their obligation to provide information about these infringing domain names, they declined to cooperate,” says Dubois.
But Namecheap says it is standing firm, insisting that it won’t hand over domain registrants’ private details without a court-ordered subpoena.
“Where there is no clear evidence of abuse, or when it is purely a trademark claim, Namecheap will direct complainants, such as Facebook, to follow industry-standard protocol,” says CEO Richard Kirkendall in a statement.
“Outside of said protocol, a legal court order is always required to provide private user information.”
He accused Facebook of an ‘attack on privacy and due process’.
It’s not the first time that Facebook has taken action over alleged domain name fraud. Last October, it filed a lawsuit in California against domain name registrar OnlineNIC and its proxy service ID Shield for allowing the registration of domain names including www-facebook-login.com and facebook-mails.com. That lawsuit is still ongoing.
The company says there are tens of millions of domain names on the web that have been registered using these proxy services, but that most registrars cooperate to take down offending domains.
Last year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said that 3,447 cybersquatting disputes were filed during 2018 – a record number, and up 15 per cent from the year before. While banking and finance represented the greatest proportion of complaints at 12 per cent of the total, internet and IT companies were close behind at 11 per cent.
“Domain names involving fraud and phishing or counterfeit goods pose the most obvious threats, but all forms of cybersquatting affect consumers,” commented WIPO director general Francis Gurry.
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