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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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By RedemptionAD on 2/19/2011 10:38:57 PM , Rating: 2
The problem lies in the fact that every country outside the us doesn't have or doesn't actively enforce child porn laws. Which means keep shutting down the sites all they want the sources are the other countries. The way to handle it would be to apply political pressure to those places to create or start to actively enforce the child porn laws and stop the majority of the places from creating it to begin with.

By RedemptionAD on 2/19/2011 11:01:30 PM , Rating: 2
So in other words its not that they have too much power, its that "they're holding it wrong."

By HrilL on 2/22/2011 2:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
What you're missing is Child Porn is already being blocked and censored in the US. The ISPs volunteered to do this after a little government pressure a while ago. The new law it to gain more control. Also this only allows the government to take control of US owned domains so .com .net .us and a few others. If they're not in US control then the domain can't be seized.

Like i said before seizing a domain doesn't take the site down its like taking someones address away but their house is still there. If you know then location you can still get there. Most sites that have been taken down so far with DHS seizures were back up with no domains within an hour anyway so this is a pointless law that will likely be abused to censor content that the government and entertainment industries don't agree with.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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