Why Isn't ICANN Speaking Out Against ICE/DOJ Domain Seizures?

from the ridiculous dept

Following the feds seizing bodog.com, Mark Jeftovic from EasyDNS wrote a really interesting post pointing out just how insane these domain seizures are. He focused on the fact that Bodog was run outside of the US, hosted outside the US, and the domain registrar was even outside the US. Thus, the feds went straight to Verisign to seize the domain. For what it’s worth, while I share his concern about the insanity of this, I don’t actually think this is new. As we discussed back in 2010, the government appeared to go direct to Verisign for earlier seizures. As we said at the time:

It appears that Homeland Security contracted out the seizures to a private company, immixGroup IT Solutions, which set up the “seizedservers.com” domain that the seized domains now point to. The other bit of useful info is that the seizures appear to have been done directly by VeriSign at the top level domain level. VeriSign, of course, controls the .com TLD, and so Homeland Security appears to have just asked VeriSign to move the domains (with a court order, of course), and it did so.

However, we agree with Jeftovic that this is crazy, and if it finally gets some more attention now, that would be a good thing. Another point that he raises is that the Bodog seizures seem to be based on a violation of Maryland state law, which raises additional questions about jurisdictional issues. You may recall a few years ago, that the state of Kentucky tried to seize a bunch of gambling related domains, and the world freaked out about a massive overreach by that state against websites that had no presence in the state. Shouldn’t there be similar concerns when it comes to a Maryland state law… and the federal government?

But there’s a bigger point in all of this, which Jeftovic raises at the end, which deserves a lot more attention: where the hell is ICANN on this and why isn’t it speaking out against these domain seizures?

Where the fsck is ICANN in all of this?

They are nowhere. They are collecting their fees, pushing their agenda of as many possible new-top-level domains and despite the fact that SOPA, ACTA, PIPA et aim directly at the interests of their core stakeholders, for whom they are supposed to be advocates and stewards.  ICANN is conspicuous in their absence from the debate, save for a smug and trite abdication of involvement (i.e. “ICANN Doesn’t Take Down Websites“) – translation: “This isn’t our problem”.

And therein lies the issue. ICANN needs to make this their problem, because it very much is. If ICANN isn’t going to stand up, and vigorously campaign for global stakeholder representation in these matters, than they are not only abdicating any responsibility in the ongoing and escalating crackdown on internet freedom, they are also abdicating their right to govern and oversee it.

They need to be visible, they need to be loud and they need to come down on the right side of these issues or they need to be replaced.

It’s a good point that highlights what a joke ICANN has been on this front. It should have come out right when ICE started seizing domains. The longer it’s silent, the worse it makes things.

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Comments on “Why Isn't ICANN Speaking Out Against ICE/DOJ Domain Seizures?”

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Jay (profile) says:

Maryland's civil laws

Just so everyone is on the same page, here is Maryland’s civil laws based on what they do in civil forfeitures.

Property can be forfeited under a preponderance of the evidence standard; the government must merely prove it is more likely than not that the property was involved in a crime, a far lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Property owners are effectively ?guilty until proven innocent?: To contest a seizure, the property owner must prove that the property was wrongfully seized or that the owner did not have actual knowledge of the conduct. But Maryland civil forfeiture law, unlike most other states, avoids creating a profit incentive for local law enforcement. All proceeds from civil forfeiture flow to the state general fund or the local governing body.

Read the last part one more time. They make their money from the proceeds by getting the federal government involved. You are guilty in all civil forfeitures until you’re proven innocent because you the state only needs a “probable cause” for forfeiture. It’s ridiculous that so few states have laws against this, but Maryland still gets cutbacks from the Feds in regards to these laws.

Based on the evidence found in the 2010 “Policing for profit” report, these domain seizures are only going to get worse. Until people begin to tackle that, we’ll have the DoJ using civil asset forfeiture in questionable ways to benefit all law officials with inflated paychecks.

Masquisieras says:

My question is ?

What is stoping Bodog to ask judges in outside of USA for a Court Order for the TLD mirror servers system in the corresponding countries to reinstate the domain and stop mirroring the Verising one for that particular domain.

I know that would make a mess of the DNS system but if the EEUU do not care to break it why should the rest of the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

ICANN is corrupt to the core

There’s no way they’ll get involved in this: there’s no way for it to make money for them or for their cronies, and THAT is the very purpose of ICANN today. They’re best off doing and saying nothing as long as the checks keep coming.

Let me tell you the name of game, boy…
We call it “riding the gravy train”

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is ?

No, because the mirror sites exist in those other countries. Why should they care about the US?

Imagine the situation reversed. A Canadian judge orders a takedown of the google.ca domain for some insane Canadian reason. Google files suit in the US claiming that since the site is legal in the US, then US DNS services should still point to google.ca. Why would the US court care what the Canada court did?

My fear is that eventually they are just going to… wait, no, I’m not even going to give them that idea if they haven’t thought of it yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is ?

“What is stoping Bodog to ask judges in outside of USA for a Court Order for the TLD mirror servers system in the corresponding countries to reinstate the domain and stop mirroring the Verising one for that particular domain.”

it’s pretty simple – the domain space works because there is only ONE .com system, not 20 or 30. There isn’t a local version of .com, there is one, and it is obtained through a US company, which is subject to US laws and the US legal system.

Kevin Murphy (user link) says:

Why not get involved?

ICANN is a bottom-up organization.

For those of you who are pissed off ICANN’s lack of a stance on seizures, why not try to do something about it?

ICANN has a public meeting coming up later this month.

It’s in Costa Rica, but anybody can participate remotely via http://costarica43.icann.org

The Public Forum, during which anybody can make a statement or ask a question, whether they’re in the room or not, starts at 2pm local time on Thursday March 15.

Anonymous Coward says:

From a comment thread on Slashdot

Ran across this rant during the discussion on Slashdot over the UN Internet Treaty negotiations:

Who introduced the Government Advisory Comittee (“GAC”) into ICANN as a fait d’accompli, drawn up in secret, who meet in secret but only have an advisory role – except where they insist on policy? DING DING DING – Bob Shaw of the ITU again. I held a quick straw poll on the floor of the first ICANN meeting in Berlin (the neo nazi demostration outside was a nice touch) and 13 out of 1000 people thought the GAC was a good idea – this for an organization that is supposed to “measure and implement community consensus” as its charter. The footage is still around on the Berkman Center servers at Harvard, and I have copies.

Who knew the fix was in an the US goverment had already picked an ICANN an ignored the worlds work via IFWP and bragged about it drunk in DC ? Bob Shaw of the ITU. He still owes me money from smoking all my wifes Virgina Slims from that night too.I don’t trust him or the ITU with $10, let along the internet. He doesn’t get this openness thing and is instead a remnant of old world secrecy.

cjstg (profile) says:


this is sort of like wanting the department of motor vehicles to weigh in on car forfeiture in a drug case. yes, the dmv issues the title, the plates, and licenses, and they create new specialty license plates for which you can pay extra, but in no way are they involved in what you or the authorities do with your car.

they need to stay neutral and make this a problem for the courts.

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is ?

False it works because there is 20-30 identical copies of the .com system each in a different country, due to contracts the companies that operate the other 19-29 copies consider the one in US as the original and are identical copies of it. But there is no technical reason for that. If a judge of a country order to one of those copies in that country to stop been a exact copy of the USA one the company operating the copy in that country would need to comply as Verisign has comply with the USA one

As has been said a mess for the DNS system but as would be said in spanish
“maric?n el ultimo”

Anonymous Coward says:


Unfortunately, i agree with you. The US is descending into a police state and censorship is going to get worse before it gets better, but the US still also has the most civil liberties in the world. Giving control of this thing to a corrupt body like the UN is not going to do anyone any favors. Seriously, who put Libya on the UN civil rights council?

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is ?

We are not calling for it, the US has make the .com no universal deciding it’s under it unilateral control. What we are seeing is that what is keeping the .com “universal” is the rest world trying to keep it that way. SOPA would have forced the hand of the rest of the world.

The question is what would happen when one of this non-US companies decide to behave as an american company and cheat the system under their local laws and F*ck everybody else. And what is stoping them?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

ICANN's silence and people's upset

Should enough people and ICANN members make a big deal of this flop over and play dead attitude then perhaps they will actually take on an advocacy role as well as a roll that seems largely designed to add more TLDs in order to make them more money.

I’m not going to hold my breath about it though nor am I waiting for a sudden conversion experience on ICANN’s part.

But it does help to participate in things like their upcoming public meeting in Costa Rica by taking part on line if not in person.


Anonymous Coward says:


It doesn’t matter, and that is key.

ICANN has to work within the law of the country it is located in. If a US court order says “shut down this domain and turn it over the ICE”, then ICANN needs to do it, or spend a ton of money trying to fight to say they shouldn’t… and losing, because they are just not really in that position.

It doesn’t require experts, it only requires reasonable probably cause.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why not get involved?

Because the “public forum” is a scam designed to provide the appearance of an open organization that is receptive to the thoughts and wishes of the Internet as a whole…when in reality ICANN has long since demonstrated over and over and over and over again that it is a textbook example of regulatory capture and that it discards any input that does further its one and only goal: profit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maryland's civil laws

Can you PLEASE explain to me how the state profits from seizing a domain. They aren’t selling ads on the site are they? Also, how is a domain registry “property”. If Mike can claim that “nothing is taken when someone pirates a creative work”, then clearly nothing is taken when a domain registration is changed to point to a different site. You’re still getting data when you enter the URL, it’s just different data.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Maryland's civil laws

Oh funny, you’re arguing that since one type of data transfer isn’t theft, NO types of sata transfer CAN be theft. Did the feds take a “copy” of your domain? Because I agree that wouldn’t be theft. No? They actually take your only copy of the domain address? Not just copy it? What’s that…? by doing so they cut access to your websites? I see, then… yes! Something has been taken away! You used to have a certain digital object (your domain name, which gave others access to your site) and now you don’t. Big difference. How fucking stupid can you be?

“Hurrdurrr… if copying mp3 isnt theft then taking your routers and gatrways isnt thert cuss… digital!”

Gwiz (profile) says:


It doesn’t require experts, it only requires reasonable probably cause.

[pet peeve]

The legal term is “probable cause” and means “reasonable ground for a belief”.

Combining the definitions of “probably” and “cause” would be “in all likelihood bring about”.

I see this fairly often and it annoys me. These are different terms and are not interchangeable.

[/pet peeve]

Alan Bleiweiss (profile) says:

the insiders trail

Lets see. Verisign was the company that the gov handed the entire internet over to when they “got out of the domain business” in the first place. And it was only when cries of “monopoly” got loud enough (at $75 a domain name if I recall my early web days), that it had to open up to other companies.

ICANN grew out of that – and in typical corporatocracy driven U.S. government fashion, it was done in a way that ensured governments (mostly the U.S. government) could continue to keep their foot planted firmly in the doorway of the new “unbiased” entity.

Please. Verisign, ICANN – pathetic shills for those in power who have no willingness to go through actual constitutional channels

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is ?

.eu europe domain I think europe has something to say its a local domain.
.com commerce domain I didn’t know commerce was a EEUU exclusive

if we where talking of the .us one I don’t think anyone would complain

if a judge can decide in US to modify an international domain why can’t a judge in another country modify it in his own country.

The operation of the main .com Zone in the US is a historical gentlemen agreement the US get to operated but the US government do no mess with it, when the US government unilaterally decide that it can take over it and size the domain of a foreign country company register in its own country operating legally in its own country is breaking the agreement why should the rest of the world keep there side of the bargain.

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is ?

Oh but ICANN has not open its mouth, and its not involved in any part of this process.

I almost sure that the international agreement to delegate the control the (g)TLD to ICANN do no include a clause to delegate to the US judicial system the control of the (g)TLD.

The US government is taking advantage that the operator of the .com is a american company that operate their main server in US to bypass the ICANN procedures and international agreements.

I don’t know of any law in France that codify that the Verisign zone file originating in US must be the canonical zone file so the judge in France do have the same problem in ordering Verisign France to change its France Server that the US judge have in ordering Verisign US to change theirs

Anonymous Coward says:

My question is ?

So would make the DNS a mess.

But no technically reason that the company operating the server can’t do it
Basically the Order is telling the mirror server stop considering authoritative the US server in respect this particular domain.

plus if they get enough mirror places to do it would be the US one that would stop been authoritative and get balkanized

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