The website seizure referenced above was an egregious oversight by DHS and ICE. I read the TorrentFreak article covering the story early yesterday morning.
The article was fair and balanced reporting, keeping in mind the stated purpose of the torrentfreak.com web site.
This is what disturbed and dismayed me far more than any digital piracy or Bit Torrent proxy concerns:
- Many of the 50+ reader comments following the article were uninformed about the scope of 1st Amendment rights,
- MUCH WORSE THOUGH WAS THE INDIFFERENCE TO, AND IN SOME INSTANCES, ADVOCACY OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY!
What is wrong with these people?
Again, please be aware that this was no reflection on any statements, neither explicit nor implied, by the writers or staff of torrentfreak.com.
I frequently read torrentfreak.com articles. While I don’t agree with everything on the site, I recognize that it is one side of the digital content rights debate. Some of the points are valid. All of the issues are deserving of a medium for public discussion.
Yet the malice, even fury expressed by readers in the comments following the article, and directed toward the government, and toward any who spoke against sexual exploitation of children, was profoundly disturbing to me.
Anger regarding the DHS and ICE mistake is plausible and logically motivated if expressed by the individuals whose sites were unjustly taken offline. These sites were labelled with an official warning indicating illegal activity. The text included reputation-damaging allegations pertaining to child pornography. This was reversed within a few days, the warnings removed, the sites restored to service. But that does not lessen the impact.
Note that the 84,000 sites were all using a free DNS service. A reader comment following the torrentfreak.com post quoted part of the terms of service (TOS) from the affected DNS provider. The TOS stated very clearly that the DNS provider took no legal responsibility, nor offered any availability guarantees to those users who chose the free service option for their sites. None of those individuals actually affected by the temporary seizure made comments. Or at least, none who identified themselves as such.
The other reason for anger with DHS and ICE is that this careless act will likely have a negative impact on future efforts to enforce laws against child pornography. DHS and ICE damaged their credibility. This may lessen their effectiveness going forward, when enforcing laws against child exploitation.
Free speech in the United States of America is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
There is one exception.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that child pornography is NOT covered by the First Amendment.
This ruling was issued nearly 40 years ago. It was not challenged, not by right-wing nor left-wing nor libertarians. Not by religious groups, not by atheists. Neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals. Not by anyone.
There is a world of difference between the ethical question of BitTorrent usage versus child pornography.
torrentfreak.com staff seem well aware of this. I am appalled that others are not.
The US Government has yet again shuttered several domain names this week. The Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE office proudly announced that they had seized domains related to counterfeit goods and child pornography. What they failed to mention, however, is that one of the targeted domains belongs to a free DNS provider, and that 84,000 websites were wrongfully accused of links to child pornography crimes.
As part of “Operation Save Our Children” ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center has again seized several domain names, but not without making a huge error. Last Friday, thousands of site owners were surprised by a rather worrying banner that was placed on their domain.
“Advertisement, distribution, transportation, receipt, and possession of child pornography constitute federal crimes that carry penalties for first time offenders of up to 30 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution,” was the worrying message they read on their websites.
» via TorrentFreak