How to Legally Shut Down a Website

By Sylvia Cini

Websites may be shut down for a number of reasons. Individuals may wish to get rid of a website they own but no longer use. A business can shutter an unproductive online store. However, if you do not own a website, the only way to shut it down is to appeal to the owner, complain to the Web hosting provider, or report the site to law enforcement because it contains illegal content.

Personal or Business Website

Step 1

Cancel your account with your Web hosting service. Once canceled, the company will delete your web pages from its server and your web pages will no longer be served to visitors.

Step 2

Relinquish your domain name. Contact the company that registered your domain, such as Go Daddy, Cheap Domain or Yahoo, and ask that your domain name be canceled. Your domain name will be returned to the public pool and another user may purchase it.

Step 3

Wait 48 hours and then navigate to your old website URL using your Web browser. Verify that the site no longer works. Depending on the domain service provider, an error page or an advertisement may be displayed.

Illegal Website

Step 1

Verify that the website is illegal and not merely offensive. Examples of illegal Web content include pirated movies, child pornography, drug trafficking and stolen credit card sites. Examples of offensive websites may include violent imagery, profanity and pornography.

Step 2

Write down the URL of the website. The URL is the address of the website listed at the top of your browser, such as http://www.xxxxx.com/.

Step 3

Report the illegal website to your local law enforcement agency.

Step 4

File a complaint online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The ICCC, also called IC3, is affiliated with the FBI and accepts reports of cyber crime. See the Resources section for a link to the IC3 website.

Step 5

Contact the CyberTipline at "1-800-843-5678." CyberTipline is a Congressionally-mandated reporting agency that focuses on crimes involving child sexual exploitation.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use Internet filtering software to block Web content that is personally offensive but legal.
  • Report illegal content on social networks to the site owner. Websites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace hold their users responsible for illegal content. The Webmaster or owner of the website has the authority and responsibility to remove and report illegal content on their site. You may also report these illegal websites to the FBI or your local law enforcement agency.