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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feds 'accidentally' shut down 84,000 websites over wrongful kiddie porn accusation...

Feds Accidentally Shut Down 84,000 Websites over Wrongful Kiddie Porn Accusation
Sam Biddle

"Operation Protect Our Children" sounded great! The Department of Justice and Homeland Security's tag-team beatdown was supposed to seize ten criminal sites this past weekend. Instead, it shuttered 84,000 innocent domains. And replaced them with a banner labeling them as child porn traffickers. Whoops!

The 83,990 sites that weren't hosting underage porn were stuck with a the gigantic graphic seen here for days after the error was realized. Not exactly a trivial accusation—and an extremely damaging one for the sites, which were mostly personal and small business pages. FreeDNS—the domain service behind the affected sites—was forced to comply with the takedown request by court order, but was clearly (and rightfully) pissed at the misuse of their system: "freedns.afraid.org has never allowed this type of abuse," they commented. At the moment, nobody has any idea how the tremendous screwup happened.

Surely, DoJ and DHS must be a little red in the face over the whole thing. Right? Right..? Nope. In a beaming statement released yesterday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano heroically explained that "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."

Which is great, really. Child pornography is vile, and the people responsible for it are the absolute scum of the internet. But by allowing the government to wield an online sledgehammer to protect kids, we need to be sure the person holding it isn't completely inept, and that the process whereby sites are smashed is a transparent one. When something goes wrong—especially this wrong—we need to know how it happened. It needs to, at the very least, be acknowledged. Child porn is horrible and damaging. Yes. But so is wrongfully accusing 84,000 people of having a hand in it.
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