DHS ICE seizes 84,000 wrong domains: Child porn oops and COICA

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By Richi Jennings. February 17, 2011.

The Department of Homeland Security has accidentally seized 84,000 innocent domains. This time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement accused the wrong domain of hosting child porn. Unfortunately, that didn't just shutter one blameless domain -- the knock-on effect killed all the other domains on its shared hosting service. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers ponder the implications for the return of COICA.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention "January" -- an experiment in algorithmic music...

Ernesto van der Sar is incensed:

The US Government ... proudly announced that they had seized domains related to counterfeit goods and child pornography. What they failed to mention, however, is ... 84,000 websites were wrongfully accused of links to child pornography. ... ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center has again seized several domain names, but not without making a huge error. ... 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 ... Friday.

...

mooo.com ... 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. ... [It] again shows that the seizure process is a flawed one. ... If the Government would only allow for due process to take place, this and other mistakes wouldn’t have been made.
M0RE

John Brownlee adds his displeasure:

How did a mistake like this happen? It appears to be purely clerical, with mooo.com mistakenly placed on the list. The error was mistaken on Sunday, but not before visitors to over 84,000 websites were told that the owner of that site was a child pornographer… a rather slanderous mistake that might open the door for a federal lawsuit or two.
M0RE

Jon Newton motions to the law:

Well done. Although they somehow missed a couple of the most egregious porn helpers.

Google search and Microsoft’s Bing search.
M0RE

Sherwin Siy outlines the chilling effects:

The same technical and legal tools that can be used to protect copyrights can, if applied overbroadly or poorly, can stifle legitimate speech and information. Nor are problems of legal jurisdiction and speedy prosecution usually best remedied by altering the nature of various technical systems.

...

The same network operations that make infringing streaming easy also underpin the security of e-commerce, the exchange of global free speech and conversation, and the reliability of daily communication. Any attempt by Congress to affect the technological workings of the Internet must take into account the way those vital interests rely upon its structure, and ensure that those values are not harmed.
M0RE

Abigail Phillips clarifies:

“COICA”, Senator Leahy’s Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, is back. ... COICA would give the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, most notably the ability to meddle with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and make entire websites effectively disappear, along with noninfringing content and lawful speech.

...

Our most basic concern ... which informs our concerns about COICA—is whether seizure is available for this kind of alleged infringement. ... U.S. law permits seizure of infringing materials, and tools for infringement, only in cases of criminal copyright. Does the affidavit establish “probable cause” ... to believe the domain names in question were used to commit a copyright crime? We don’t think so.

...

This blurring of the distinction between criminal and civil remedies is a troubling example of how COICA would expand copyright enforcement to the detriment of the Internet’s continue growth as a platform for innovation and expression.
M0RE

Mike Masnick can't quite believe his eyes:

Congress is holding hearings as it prepares to reintroduce COICA, a horribly written piece of legislation that effectively gives the US government more powers to censor websites ... with little or no due process, in violation of the basic principles of the Constitution. ... [The] law may sound good on a first pass, but has a ton of unintended consequences. There are serious questions about stifling not just plenty of non-infringing speech, but also harming innovation.

...

Hopefully Congress realizes what a mistake COICA would be, but we keep hearing from people saying that the entertainment industry has put a huge effort behind COICA and getting it passed as quickly as possible.
M0RE

And Nate Anderson goes even further:

COICA ... would give the government legal tools to blacklist a "rogue" website from the Internet ... ban credit card companies from processing US payments to the site, and forbid US-based online ad networks from working with the site. ... Everyone loves the idea. Democrats love the idea. ... Republicans love the idea. And rightsholders really love the idea.

...

Rosetta Stone, the makers of foreign language learning software, wants to go much further. They doubt ... that the government is really going to expend as much effort as they want busting small counterfeit shops on the Web, so Rosetta Stone wants to open COICA's Internet censorship regime to private actors. ... This idea would mean any private company could "bring to the courts evidence that would allow the courts to ... order the remedies contained in the bill." When it comes to foreign websites ... most of these judicial hearings would likely be one-sided, with only the rightsholder evidence considered. Even sites already declared legal in other countries ... could suddenly find themselves curtailed from ad networks and credit card processors, and their domains blocked.
M0RE

And Finally...

Rich Vreeland's "January" -- an experiment in algorithmic music
[hat tip: Andy Baio]



Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itbw@richij.com.

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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