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Fighting Fake Profiles on icann.org

12 June 2017
By Duncan Burns

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In response to questions from the community, ICANN is looking into reports of fake or spam-related profiles on icann.org. We want to give you an update on what we've found and what we're planning to do.

What is a profile on icann.org and what does it allow you to do?

Anyone in the world can register a public profile on icann.org. These profiles include a photo, name, title, short biography, social media handles, location, and other information. Registering a profile on icann.org also allows you to sign up for and receive automated alerts and other content.

What problem are we having with ICANN profiles?

Currently, there are over 40,000 profiles on icann.org. However, we believe that many of these profiles are fake. Despite instituting security measures like two-factor authentication and CAPTCHA, our profiles page is flooded with these fake profiles. ICANN is not the only organization that faces this very public problem.

The number of fake profiles on icann.org is problematic – and is growing all the time. And while we can apply technological tools to ensure the authenticity of some profiles, these tools are insufficient to tackle the large volume of profiles. Unfortunately, ICANN is not in a position to dedicate sufficient resources to manage the current number of public profiles and the number of new profiles added each month.

What risks do fake profiles pose to the ICANN community, Board, and organization?

The open nature of these digital accounts does mean that some will take advantage of this openness to promote inappropriate, obscene, or potentially harmful content. ICANN is then inadvertently involved in promoting such objectionable content.

The profiles can inflict harm on our community, Board, and organization by:

  • promoting or posting content that is divisive, derogatory, or disruptive to the community.
  • posting inappropriate advertising.
  • distributing malware, ransomware, or other malicious content.

What is ICANN doing to prevent profiles from being used for spam?

To ensure the integrity of content on icann.org, and to mitigate the risks from fake or spam profiles, we have decided that the best short-term solution is to turn off the public aspect of profiles. This change will take effect on 23 June 2017.

This temporary fix will afford us the time to work on a better solution, while ridding the site of inappropriate and obscene content. We have already deleted 6,000 of the most egregious and obvious fake profiles.

Will you still receive alerts and other content from ICANN?

Yes, if you have signed up, you'll continue to receive automated alerts and content. The only difference is that you won't have a public profile. New visitors will continue to have the ability to create a profile, but again, the profile will not be public.

What about the profiles of the leadership of Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees, ICANN Board members, and the ICANN organization?

The profiles of the ICANN Board can be found here:

The names or profiles of the Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees leadership can be found here:

Address Supporting Organization (ASO)

Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO)

Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO)

At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC)

Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC)

Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC)

Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC)

The ICANN organization maintains and uploads icann.org profiles belonging to employees of the ICANN organization. For reasons of accountability and transparency, these will remain public.

We know that this is not an ideal solution for our community members who enjoy having access to public profiles. We thank you in advance for your support and patience in helping us combat this problem.

If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments section below and we will do our best to answer them.


Duncan Burns