US government has taken control of 750 domains over the past few years
US seizure of a Canadian gambling website caused online outcry as it was registered abroad and thought to be outside American jurisdiction. But this is far from isolated; it has emerged that the US has seized hundreds of foreign domain names.
US customs official Nicole Navas confirmed that the US government has taken control of 750 domains, “most with foreign-based registrars” over the past few years.
Operation “In Our Sites”, an initiative run by US and Immigration Customs Enforcement, is dedicated to shutting down illegal websites that it believes are involved in the distribution of copyright goods and copyright works. It was initially created in 2010 to police US-owned domains, but now appears to have extended its reach using federal court orders to shut down websites.
“The ramifications of this are no less than chilling and every single organization branded or operating under .com, .net, .org, .biz etc. needs to ask themselves about their vulnerability to the whims of US federal and state lawmakers,”said EasyDNS, a multinational domain-hosting company.
The gambling site Bogdan.com was shut down and its owner Canadian billionaire Calvin Ayre prosecuted on the basis that internet gambling is illegal in the US. However, the website was registered to a Canadian server, where gambling is perfectly legal. Homeland security justified the move citing “the movement of funds from accounts outside the US” as the reason.
At first glance it would appear that such a move was beyond US jurisdiction, but this is not so. The US can get at any .com domain through a US-based company called Verisign, which is the only organization authorized to issue new .com domains. In addition, it manages .net, .cc, .tv domains.
It simply has to issue Verisign with a court order that in turn shuts down the offending website. The Public Internet Registry also based in the US is able to do this to .org websites, which it controls.
Verisign told Wired magazine in a statement that it had acted above board and “responds to lawful court orders subject to its technical capabilities.”
The US’s seemingly unbridled power to exercise its influence throughout the web has many online activists worried that this may be what is in store if SOPA and PIPA laws are finally passed.
Do you know someone who has had their blog removed lately? How about sites that are exposing Islamic extremism and the ongoing attempts by American Islamic organizations bragging about their success in taking down blogs that disagree with Sharia law? It is happening more frequently and to think, SOPA isn't necessary when use of intimidation and threats from non-governmental agencies are allowed to get their way and silence Americans.
As for foreign sites taken down, we know of a few that were removed within the last two months. If our government can claim that those sites violated copyright laws, without first allowing the sites a fair hearing, nothing posted on the Internet is safe and free speech will become a thing of the past. As I have said before and will repeat, the Internet was the last domain where free speech was allowed - now, even the Net is becoming over-ruled by increasing laws - laws that folks aren't aware of until they, too, get hit and removed at the whim of a few - yes, few - deciding the fate of your First Amendment rights.
Those with the power to remove .com, .org links, have the power to control what information is shared between friends, among like-minded links i.e. Conservative links, and soon, the Net will simply become another form of progressive, liberal robots that speak only what they are told, by those in power and all done without bills such as SOPA ever needing to be passed by Congress.
Did you know that Google had posted an explanation about a year ago demonstrating how many blogs were removed in different countries. Israel had the fewest removed and the United States, the most and isn't that a bit strange, when Israel is surrounded on all sides by her worse enemies? It's one thing to be tracking the movement of Islamic terrorists across the Net, but quite another thing, when American citizens are attacked and removed for voicing their opinions about Islam. Is our government now allowing Sharia law to control the Net? Just wondering.