Did Homeland Security Seize... And Then Unseize... A Dynamic DNS Domain?

from the cluelessness-knows-no-bounds dept

Over the weekend, we started getting a bunch of reports from folks claiming that the dynamic DNS service afraid.org had been seized in the latest DHS/ICE domain seizures, and that all of the sites associated with afraid.org had been replaced with a notice that they had been seized over child porn claims. The main site involved was mooo.com. If you're unfamiliar with the way these dynamic DNS services work, they basically let you put a permanent URL, often using a subdomain like putsomesubdomainhere.mooo.com, and then you point it at whatever machine is actually hosting your content. For some folks and some projects, it's easier than getting your own full URL. But, of course, as a service, it can point to just about any kind of content. Remember, afraid isn't hosting any of this stuff. It's basically just acting as a directory.

Despite multiple reports, and various blog posts from individuals really pissed off that ICE had accused them of trafficking in child porn, we didn't write about it earlier for a few reasons. First off, with each of the past few ICE seizures, various hucksters have claimed that their domains were seized as well, and it later turns out to not be true at all. In the last round, I ended up talking with a guy who claimed his domain was seized for a few days, before realizing he was full of it. Second, afraid.org and mooo.com came back online a day and a half later, with the admin claiming that the domain was "suspended at the registrar level", but not mentioning DHS/ICE at all. I emailed afraid.org's admin asking him for details a few days ago, and heard absolutely nothing in response.

So despite more and more people bringing it up in our comments, I was ready to let it drop. However, late yesterday, Homeland Security and ICE did officially announced more domain seizures, but these were different than the last four rounds we've spoken about -- which were a part of "Operation in Our Sites," and was focused on IP violations. Instead, this is called "Operation Protect Our Children," and was focused on child porn. Yes, Homeland Security is pulling out the old "protect the children!" line to defend domain seizures.

Unlike the "In Our Sites" announcements, however, with "Protect Our Children," DHS didn't actually name the domains. So, right now I'm just not sure if mooo.com was really seized... and then given back (which would be a surprise, if true). Since I'm at a dead end in the normal channels, I figured I'd just put the story out here, and see if we can dig up any proof either way. Was mooo.com really seized as part of this program... and if so, was it really given back? If so, why? Did ICE realize that seizing a dynamic DNS service that links to a ton of perfectly legitimate content would clearly push it over the line on prior restraint? Remember, nearly all of the "prior restraint" cases we've discussed as examples of why the domain seizures are unconstitutional involve pornographic materials. And, one of the counterpoints that people have argued is that those rulings only apply to porn, but not copyright (no one has a good explanation of why that would be, but we'll leave that aside).

So, what happened here? Did DHS/ICE demonstrate even more technical cluelessness in seizing a dynamic DNS directory that linked to tons of perfectly legit content, and then realize its mistake and give it back? Or were the reports of mooo.com's seizure overblown? Or did something else happen altogether?

Filed Under: domain names, porn, seizures


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 16 Feb 2011 @ 9:57am

    Re:

    Why the derision? Do you not think that sites dealing in child porn should be taken down? We know you love pirates, but do you love child molesters too?

    I don't know how to respond to anything as obnoxiously, sickeningly disingenuous as this.

    I have tried multiple times to write out a response, but it is clear that you have no interest in a logical debate, given that others have already called you out on this and you continue to defend it.

    I am not just deeply offended, I am left saddened that anyone would stoop to such a level and think that it was an appropriate point of argument.

    And, worst of all, you don't even seem to realize that in making this very statement, you have proved the point that we were trying to make. When you hoist a banner such as that, you allow all sorts of other rights to be trampled, because anyone who points that out can then simply be falsely and libelously accused of "loving child molesters."

    It's the worst political trick in the book. It suggests deep corruption of the soul. Please, rethink this tactic of disingenuous debate. It is beneath any moral human being.

    A human being can be against overreaching attacks on free speech without "loving child molesters." In fact, we can be more against child molesting than you can possibly ever know. But we can be against child molesting by wanting the government to *actually go after and punish child molesters to the fullest extent of the law* rather than seizing domains pointing to tens of thousands of sites -- most of which had nothing whatsoever to do with child molesting.

    We can be absolutely against child molesting and hope that our government wouldn't just seize a bunch of domains -- most of which had nothing to do with child molesting -- but would actually go out and arrest those responsible for those horrifying and hideous acts.

    We can be absolutely against child molesting and worry about how the government can trample all sorts of rights, and then worry about how speaking out against such abuses will leave us open to little-minded, defamatory attacks about how we "love child molesters."

    That statement was uncalled for, ridiculous, disgusting, and beneath any sense of common decency.

    I can't begin to tell you how disgusted you have made me today. That you would take such a step, and not realize how offensive a statement is that you have made is just incredible.

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