Domain registrar Namecheap on Wednesday said it would no longer be accepting any new domain applications including the words “coronavirus,” “covid,” and “vaccine,” among other versions of words and phrases alluding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles-based company says the measure is to prevent abuse and fraud from sites trying to hawk fake products and misinformation and otherwise capitalize on the ongoing global health crisis.
“There are always those who try to take advantage of crisis situations by carrying out acts of fraud. In response, we are actively working with authorities to both proactively prevent, and take down, any fraudulent or abusive 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 they cannot be purchased and used for abuse.”
Namecheap says legitimate companies and website owners can apply for a domain name containing one of the now-banned words by going through its support team, which “will be available to review and register it for you manually upon your request.”
Coronavirus-related fraud and abuse has become rampant online in the past few months, as the situation has worsened around the world and countless economies have ground to a halt in an attempt to stem the spread of the illness. That’s led to a wave of countermeasures from tech companies large and small. Amazon, eBay, and other online sellers have begun removing listings that make false coronavirus claims, as well as restricting the sale of health items like face masks and hand sanitizer. Big platform companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all started working together to take more aggressive stances on moderating potential misinformation and fraudulent content related to the crisis, too.