Child sexual abuse content has flourished unabated on Australia's Cocos Keeling Islands' top-level internet domain and must be stopped, according to experts.
Writing in Policy Forum, researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) argued the Cocos Islands' top level domain, .cc, is rife with child sexual abuse material and they are calling for the government to regulate or reclaim the domain under .au.
"The Internet Watch Foundation ranked .cc as the 10-most abused top level domain for hosting child sexual abuse material in 2019 and it's not the first time it's been in the top 10," ANU PhD researcher Samuel Bashfield said.
"Australia should not let the misuse of .cc stand, and it should hold the domain and its other territory domains to the same high standards as .au."
In the early 90s top level domains such as .au and .uk were created for each country and dependent territory.
In Australia, top level domains were created for its territories - .cx for Christmas Island, .hm for the Heard and McDonald Islands, .nf for Norfolk Island, and .cc for Cocos Islands.
Several of these domains have not been regulated by the Australian government and are controlled by private interests. Experts say the commercial control is the underlying reason the government doesn't see it as a responsibility.
"Australia must hold .cc and its other territory top level domains to the same high standards as .au," ANU Lecturer James Mortensen said.
"Anyone can buy a .cc address, often for a much lower price than other domains.
"The lack of government oversight has likely contributed to a focus on making the domain profitable, rather than accountable.
"As the government responsible for the Cocos Islands, the Australian Government must take control of the .cc domain and ensure it is no longer a haven for child sexual abuse material."
The researchers say the Department of Infrastructure, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Department of Home Affairs could help intervene.
"Australia territory domains need increased regulation of the disparate domain administrators, or even formal redelegation of these domains to .au," Mr Bashfield said.
"By removing platforms for this material, the Australian Government will be doing its part to limit the reach of abusive content."
Dr Mortensen said that .cc's current arrangement has allowed criminal activity to flourish, calling Australia's commitment to fighting child exploitation into question and "damaging the reputation of the Cocos Islands".
"Australia's Cocos Keeling Islands do not need to be synonymous with child sexual abuse and scams," he said.