Who Needs COICA When Homeland Security Gets To Seize Domain Names?
from the this-won't-end-well dept
By now you probably know that over the Thanksgiving Holiday, Homeland Security wasn’t just feeling up your grandmother and staring at your naked daughter at the TSA, but ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) went way beyond its mandate to seize a whole bunch of domain names. This is not the first time it has done this, of course. Back in June, we noted a very similar, if somewhat smaller, raid. That one was equally questionable, as not only did it involve seizing domains without an adversarial trial, but also the announcement was made at Disney headquarters, which should make you wonder when Homeland Security started working for private corporations to shut down websites it does’t like without a trial.
The latest set of seizures is no less troubling. These domain seizures come even without the COICA law being in place, and despite assurances from COICA supporters that no such domain seizures would ever possibly come without a full trial first, many of the operators of the domain names seized in this round state they hadn’t received any notification of complaints, let alone demands to be taken down.
And it gets even more ridiculous, as some of the sites taken down appear to be nothing more than search engines, which did not host any content and did not host any trackers, but simply acted as perfectly normal search engines. For anyone who actually understands how the internet works (i.e., clearly not Homeland Security) this is a massively troubling move, suggesting that if Homeland Security doesn’t like how your search engine works, it can simply seize your domain and put up a really scary looking graphic, claiming it has taken over your website:
And, of course, none of this is actually stopping these sites from working. Within hours, many had popped back up elsewhere. The whole thing seems highly questionable. Seizing domain names without a trial, and taking down sites that appear to be nothing more than search engines, rather than actually hosting infringing material, is a huge, dangerous step, which appears to have absolutely nothing to do with Homeland Security’s mandate.