Domain registrar Namecheap said on Wednesday that it would no longer accept new domain applications, including the words “coronavirus,” “covid,” and “vaccine,” in addition to other versions of words and phrases referring to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles-based company says the measure is designed to prevent the misuse and fraud of sites attempting to hack fake products and misinformation and otherwise take advantage of the ongoing global health crisis.
“There are always those who try to take advantage of crisis situations by committing fraud. In response, we are actively working with authorities to both proactively prevent and remove fraudulent or offensive domains or websites related to COVID-19, “the company writes in its statement, which it emailed to customers earlier today. “This includes banning certain terms such as ‘coronavirus’, ‘covid’ and ‘vaccine’ from our domain search tool so that they cannot be purchased and used for abuse.”
Namecheap says that legitimate businesses and website owners can request a domain name with any of the now-forbidden words by going through the support team, which will be “available to view and register it manually at your request.”
Coronavirus-related fraud and abuse have become rampant online in recent months as the situation has deteriorated around the world and numerous economies have stalled in an effort to stem the spread of the disease. This has led to a wave of countermeasures from technology companies large and small. Amazon, eBay, and other online vendors have started removing entries that make false coronavirus claims, and are limiting the sale of health items such as face masks and hand sanitizer. Major platform companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all started working together to take more aggressive positions to also mitigate possible misinformation and fraudulent content related to the crisis.