Shutting down websites which promote or disseminate child pornography is clearly a good thing. But not when 84,000 websites are dragged down with the 10 that are actually being targeted.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday announced it had seized the domains of 10 websites “engaged in the advertisement and distribution of child pornography.” The crackdown was part of Operation Protect Our Children.
However, the press release completely glosses over the fact that 84,000 other websites, innocent of any wrongdoing, were also affected by the crackdown. According to TorrentFreak, the huge error saw thousands of domain owners publicly accused of having links to online child pornography thanks to a banner that all the affected sites were redirected to.
It took two days for the error to be corrected, and a further three days for the banner to disappear completely from the sites. However, the ‘This domain name has been seized by ICE’ message is still showing up in search results.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, said:
For all its positive impact, the Internet has also unfortunately created a new way for child predators to commit their inexcusable crimes. The production and distribution of child pornography wreak havoc on innocent lives. With these domain seizures, we are taking our fight against child pornography to websites that facilitate the exchange of these abusive images.
This is a good endeavor which we can all get behind. But the system of how these websites are targeted and then taken down clearly needs some work. Especially as this isn’t the first time such an error has occurred. Otherwise alongside the minority of sites perpetuating child pornography, thousands more who don’t, never have, and never would, are going to be dragged down with them.
There is also an ongoing argument that these take-downs aren’t being conducted with the proper due process. Which some argue goes against the very basis of the U.S. Constitution. The powers of the government to interfere do indeed appear to be growing, mostly under the umbrella of the terrorist threat. But you do have to wonder how much of this is a smokescreen more about controlling the population.
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