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ICE Wrongfully Shutters 84,000 Sites for Child Porn

site seizure notice
Last week, the U.S. Government triumphantly shut down several domain names linked to counterfeit goods and child pornography. But it also shut down about 84,000 other sites that, it turns out, were completely legal.

As part of its ongoing 'Operation Save Our Children' campaign, the Department of Justice and Homeland Security's ICE office recently obtained a seizure warrant from a District Court judge, before systematically plastering warning banners all over targeted websites. "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 banners read.

The only problem, however, was that one of the targeted sites was mooo.com. Mooo.com is owned by FreeDNS, and is the most popular domain listed on afraid.org, FreeDNS's directory of shared domains. When the feds shut it down, then, they inadvertently took down all 84,000 of mooo.com's subdomains, much to the surprise of FreeDNS. "Freedns.afraid.org has never allowed this type of abuse of its DNS service," FreeDNS's owner said in a statement posted to its website. "We are working to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible."

Sunday, the government had realized its mistake, and began restoring access to the wrongfully shuttered subdomains -- most of which belonged to small businesses or independent owners who had no connection to child pornography. But because the DNS entries needed to propagate, it took an additional three days for the warning banners to completely disappear.

The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, has publicly ignored the mistake, choosing instead to focus on how many legitimately dangerous sites ICE managed to take down. "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," Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a press release. "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."

Tags: ChildPornography, domain, HomelandSecurity, JanetNapolitano, mistake, politics, security, seizure, top, UsGovernment, Web