The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been under criticism lately for not being aggressive enough in cracking down on illegal online pharmacies. According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, complaints in the thousands about online pharmacies have accumulated since ICANN stopped maintaining one of its servers in 2012.
ICANN could help crack down on illegal online pharmacy operators, but ICANN remains resolved in the stance that they are not a regulatory agency. Fadi Chehade, ICANN’s Chief Executive said the powers of the organization are limited. ICANN manages technical functions and oversees registrars that sell Web addresses. He said that his critics don’t understand the role of his organization, comparing ICANN to the Department of Motor Vehicles, “We authorize a group of license plates to registrars to do business. I’m not responsible for what happens in the car.”
Over the summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Interpol and a conglomerate of other countries worked together to bring down more than 1,300 websites believed to be selling drugs without prescriptions. The Chinese company that registered the sites said that it could not take action against them.
Officials from the FDA and Interpol requested ICANN to get involved. According to ICANN, they are continuing to investigate the situation. LegitScript, a company that tracks online pharmacies, reports ICANN removed only 700 of the nearly 5,000 suspicious drug selling websites since February.
“I don’t know how, contractually, we could do something different than what we are doing,” Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s global domains division, said to the Wall Street Journal. He says their powers of enforcement are limited to making sure that registration companies are abiding to what is written in the terms of their contracts. Since 2013, the terms of agreement for registration companies include instructions to scrutinize reports of any illegal activity.