Better That 84,000 Be Libeled Than 10 Go Free


Last weekend, visitors to some 84,000 websites, mostly personal and small business sites, saw this pop up on their screens:

The domain seizures were part of "Operation Save Our Children," which according to a Department of Homeland Security press release, nabbed 10 websites that were distributing child pornography.

The problem for the other 83,990 domain owners is that for a couple days their sites were inaccessible to both owners and to readers/viewers/customers, and for up to six days the site owners were advertised to the world as suspected child pornographers. The DHS press release makes no mention of that.

From the file-sharing blog TorrentFreak:

As with previous seizures, ICE convinced a District Court judge to sign a seizure warrant, and then contacted the domain registries to point the domains in question to a server that hosts the warning message. However, somewhere in this process a mistake was made and as a result the domain of a large DNS service provider was seized.

The domain in question is mooo.com, which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS. It is the most popular shared domain at afraid.org and as a result of the authorities' actions a massive 84,000 subdomains were wrongfully seized as well. All sites were redirected to the banner…

This seems to be part of a pattern in which DHS seizes and shuts down blocks of domains with little due process, though it's more commonly done in copyright investigations.