PONAR: Architecture

This document provides a brief overview of the PONAR Architecture.


Under existing mechanisms of handling online abuse, the complainant often needs to get a grasp of most of the following terms to figure out how to proceed. 

  • Domain Name System: The system by which an Internet address name is translated to a numerical IP address for routing purposes.
  • ICANN: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit corporation created in 1998 to manage the infrastructure of the Domain Name System.
  • Domain Name Registrar: An ICANN-accredited company which leases domain names to individuals and organizations. The largest are GoDaddy, Tucows, Network solutions.
  • Domain Name: The last two parts of an Internet site which two-part name of an Internet site, which is supplied by the registry (e.g., civilities.net)
  • Subdomain: The name of an Internet host within a domain, which may represent a distinct publisher than the domain. (e.g., incivilities.blogspot.com)
  • Directory Service: Any Internet service for providing raw information regarding a simple name request. DNS returns the routing information; WHOIS returns the registration information.
  • Domain Proxying: An add-on service provided by registrars by which a WHOIS query shields the registrant's name and/or contact information.
  • Internet Account Providers: A company which provides account services, typically including email, instant messaging, website hosting, blog/photo/video sharing (and search on the side). They make web browsers or toolbar plugins to help users access account services. In the United States today, the leaders are Microsoft, Google, Yahoo. (Internet Service Providers, which by default provide connectivity & bandwidth, are also IAP's).
  • Publisher: An individual or organization direct responsible for content on the web – that is, they have the power to remove it.

Present-Day Procedures 

Find if the publisher has listed their email address (some bloggers don't) and see if you can contact them through email. Look at the website subdomain and get the domain. Find a WHOIS server and enter the domain, and hope that this returns a useful email address. If the address is proxied, hope that the address gets to the website administrator. If the listed administrator is not the publisher, hope that the administrator can forward the request to the publisher.
If a court-ordered remedy to remove content is not followed by the publisher, than the IAP/hosting provider would have to remove the content, or else the registrar would delist the address.

These aren't hard steps, but they should smack any Internet user, whether expert or beginner, as needlessly complex for such a critical process as reporting abuse. There's no technical reason that the reporting of abuse can't be made more efficient and initiated from a single button click.

PONAR Architecture Basics

The Internet Account Provider should provide a buttons in the browser for accessing PONAR. (This is easy if one makes the vendor software, and easier if one makes a popular toolbar plug-in). The button can retrieve and list past and present PONAR filings, and also launch a filing form. Users would be able to file a PONAR request through any IAP with which they have an account. The IAP may assess a filing fee, or use some other mechanisms to deter spam. Law enforcement agencies would likely be given free access.

In the background, the client software queries the appropriate directory service to learn (1) whether the subdomain's publisher is separate from the domain's publisher (as in most blog hosting arrangements), and (2) which PONAR server to use. Typically the server would be hosted by the registrar or hosting authority – it should be a higher-level entity, so that no publisher can host their own PONAR server.

Additionally, it would make sense for of the CMS and blog software vendors to build integration between a PONAR request and the content management operations: deleting content, and from web caches. Presently these are just separate manual operations. (Here, for example, are instructions for removing from Google's cache)

While a PONAR request is open, the complainant, publisher, their assigned representation, may view and add correspondence. Only the summary details are presented for public perusal. Officers of the court may access details if a lawsuit is initiated.