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Many small businesses whose sites were hosted by FreeDNS fell victim to an overzealous government takedown and had to explain to customers why their webpage redirected to warning about the distribution of child pornography.  (Source: FreeDNS)
Government believed the sites contained child pornography, but they did not

In evidence of the dangers of the U.S. government's increasing "kill switch" powers regarding web servers inside the U.S., the Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE last week essentially shut down 84,000 sites in a case of mistaken identity.

The shutdowns targeted, the most popular shared domain at free web service provider FreeDNS.  FreeDNS is a free domain service that is immensely popular among file sharers, blogs, small businesses, and other independent operators.  Its homepage is

With the shutdown last Friday, the ICE accidentally shut down 84,000 subdomain pages.  The pages were all redirected to a banner that stated "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."

The court order to shut down and redirect the sites was granted via a seizure warrant from a District Court.  The warrant was executed as part of the DHS ICE team's "Operation Save Our Children".

The key problem is that none of the sites thus identified under the superdomain had child porn on them.  They appear to have been the victim of an overzealous government police force with a bit too much power on its hands.

FreeDNS has expressed outrage.  In a statement, they comment, " has never allowed this type of abuse of its DNS service. We are working to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible."

Over the weekend they managed to begin restoring some of the pages.  Meanwhile small business owners were left to try to reassure customers that they were note engaging in illegal activity [source example].

The DHS is actually bragging about the takedowns citing 10 child porn sites that were taken offline, but conveniently forgetting to mention the 84,000 legitimate sites it also killed.  Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano states [press release]:

Each year, far too many children fall prey to sexual predators and all too often, these heinous acts are recorded in photos and on video and released on the Internet...DHS is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to shut down websites that promote child pornography to protect these children from further victimization.

The DHS has not yet released an official statement on the abuse of power.  It also has yet to comment on whether it plans to compensate webpage owners for lost business or damage to their websites. 

Website owners can still replicate the redirect by adding "" to their hosts file.

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kill the DHS
By puckalicious on 2/17/2011 11:40:49 AM , Rating: 5
Another glaring example of the DHS overstepping its bounds. There is no reason for the dept of redundancy dept that is the DHS other than to create a police state where our rights no longer apply.

RIP 4th amendment we hardly knew ye.

RE: kill the DHS
By dgingeri on 2/17/2011 11:51:30 AM , Rating: 5
I doubt very much that this was as much of an accident as more of a test of boundaries by DHS.

The greatest threat to democracy is a bureaucracy that is out of reach from the common people. Currently, we have many.

RE: kill the DHS
By bah12 on 2/18/2011 9:12:17 AM , Rating: 2
But this wasn't a 4ht amendment breach. There was a warrant. Don't blame the DHS for what is clearly a judicial mistake. The warrant should not have been this broad, and in our system the way you keep the DHS in check is via the warrant granting process of the judicial branch. You should really be chastising the judge that allowed this.

RE: kill the DHS
By Shadowmaster625 on 2/17/2011 4:08:56 PM , Rating: 1
What do you mean hardly? Most people dont have the slightest damn clue what the 4th amendment is and couldnt care less anyway.

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