GoDaddy, World's Top Web Registrar, Follows Google Out of China

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Two days after Google (GOOG) closed its China-based search engine, the world's largest domain registrar has followed suit. GoDaddy announced it will no longer register domains from within the world's largest country.

GoDaddy's actions come after the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) issued rules requiring domain applicants to submit detailed personal information, including color headshots. The company said it will stop offering .cn registrations -- the top-level domain used in China.

"We are concerned for the security of the individuals affected by CNNIC's new requirements, as well as for the chilling effect we believe the requirements will have on new .CN domain name registrations," GoDaddy said in a statement. "For these reasons, we have decided to discontinue offering new .cn domain names at this time. We continue to manage the .cn domain names of our existing customers."

Human rights activists hope that GoDaddy's move will initiate a stream of Western companies to follow Google's lead in pulling out of the market. Google said Monday that it will close its China-based search engine and redirect users to a site based in Hong Kong (see Timeline: Google's Dispute with China Came Down to Principle).

New Chinese Rules

GoDaddy objected in particular to rules put in place in December by the state-affiliated CNNIC requiring domain applicants to submit detailed personal information. The company drew praise from U.S. lawmakers during a hearing Wednesday to address Google's dispute with China.

"GoDaddy is the first company to publicly follow Google's example in responding to the Chinese government's censorship of the Internet by partially retreating from the Chinese market," said Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R.-N.J.) in a statement. "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."

Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, told The Washington Post that the new rules are designed to further tighten China's grip on informtation on the internet. "The underlying intent is, if you're engaging in political speech, we want to know who's engaging in it and what Web site is behind it," Ganesan told the Post. "This is a way the Chinese government can send a chilling message to people that they shouldn't speak freely online. It's forcing us companies to be both the censor and the spy on behalf of the Chinese government."

Multiple Cyber Attacks

GoDaddy says it's been the target of multiple cyber attacks orginating in China. Testifying before Congress Wednesday, Christine Jones, GoDaddy executive v.p. and general counsel, said, "Most of the attacks on our system are designed to disable the websites of our customers. And those tend to be human rights sites, Tiananmen Square anniversary sites, or weblogs that discuss Tibetan monks. Anything that the Chinese government deems inappropriate."

The company's move was independent of Google's, Jones said: "We just made a decision we didn't want to act as an agent of the Chinese government." China, Jones added, "rarely asks us to shut down counterfeit goods or other IP violations, because frankly, I think they support that."
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