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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 mooo.com, 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 afraid.org.

With the mooo.com 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 mooo.com 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, "Freedns.afraid.org 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 "74.81.170.110 mooo.com" to their hosts file.



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RE: What needs to happen now
By chick0n on 2/18/2011 1:24:53 AM , Rating: 2
Sue?

this will be their excuse

"We're here to protect our people ! This could be used to raise funds for TERRORIST so what we did was the right thing"

case closed-

notice the magic word? it can throw any lawsuit out of the window.


RE: What needs to happen now
By xrodney on 2/18/2011 2:52:54 AM , Rating: 3
Perhaps can do that if only US is involved, but how many of those 84 thousand websites were international ?
US GOV can think they are king of the hill on they own playground, but still need to obey on international level.


RE: What needs to happen now
By leuNam on 2/18/2011 1:57:17 PM , Rating: 2
You're right...it's a bad bill;
:Internet is increasingly becoming the backbone of American commerce and communication. Efforts to cede control of it to the government ought to be carefully scrutinized, if not completely rebuffed."


RE: What needs to happen now
By roykahn on 2/19/2011 10:48:53 PM , Rating: 2
Can I join in this fun?

If you're against the kill switch then you're supporting terrorism. Only the government can determine who is a terrorist. Friends of the US government are not terrorists, enemies are. Pretty much as simple as that. For example, many people were labelling Wikileaks a terrorist organisation, right? What a joke.


RE: What needs to happen now
By AnnihilatorX on 2/21/2011 12:48:07 PM , Rating: 2
Terrorists selling child porn to fund bombings, who'd have not thought, very clever.


RE: What needs to happen now
By AnnihilatorX on 2/21/2011 12:49:16 PM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that's like admitting this condemnment of child pornography is not for the safety and benefit of the children in question, but for the sake of against terrorism.


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