DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

Summary: DHS Security Immigrations and Customs Enforcement incorrectly knocked out some 84,000 web sites attempting to seize domain names associated with child pornography, then glossed over the fact that it happened.

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On February 15th a joint project of the Department of Homeland Security Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice termed “Operation Protect Our Children” confidently announced the seizure of ten domain names involved in the advertisement and distribution of child pornography. What they failed to mention was that they also knocked out a popular shared domain by mistake, resulting in, according to TorrentFreak, some 84,000 web sites being taken down and redirected to a banner mentioning child pornography.

What Happened?

Free DNS is a service that provides free DNS hosting, subdomain, and domain hosting among other services. The most popular subdomain offered by the service, mooo.com, was accidentally caught up in the ICE sweep of domains taken down.

Subdomains available from Free DNS.

Subdomains available from Free DNS.

That left legitimate sites such as http://greyghost.mooo.com redirecting to an ICE web page with this banner, telling visitors “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 banner users were presented after the URL they visited redirected.

The banner users were presented after the URL they visited redirected.

ICE is able to force this by first getting a District Court judge to sign off on a seizure warrant, and then having the domain registrars re-point the domains to their server hosting the warning banner. At 7:07 on the 12th, the following message was posted by Free DNS after realizing what happened:

Message appearing on freedns.afraid.org on the 12th.

Message appearing on freedns.afraid.org on the 12th.

Operation In Our Sites ICE launched their initial endeavor in domain seizures last year under “Operation In Our Sites”, aimed at seizing the domain names of those who infringe on copyrights. Legitimate criticisms of these seizure tactics included targeting web sites that claimed (with paperwork) they were not actually infringing on copyrights and investigations conducted by agents without adequate training or experience. For example, ARS Technica noted one definition from an affidavit provided by an ICE agent that read as follows: “A Bit torrent (referred to in short as 'torrent' or 'torrent file') is a files distribution system used for transferring files across a network of people.” The lack of technical understanding present in an investigator who is then providing direct input into which domains will be taken down is of concern.

Finally Site owners in this most recent case were presented with the unenviable task of explaining to visitors that they had no affiliation with child pornography. Since these are personal web sites, blogs, and small businesses, this is material to some of the site owners.

This screw up in a well intentioned, but overreaching and ham fisted, government legal action on the Internet comes at a time when legislation requesting further capabilities, such as an “Internet Kill Switch”, is being discussed. Such screw ups, and glossing over them in reporting on the project, do not serve to strengthen ICE’s ability to be successful in future enforcement actions on what is the very serious problem of dissemination of child pornographic material on the Internet.

Topics: Software Development, Browser

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39 comments
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  • Scary stuff

    This is right out of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." I'd say it's comical, but I don't find child pornography a laughing matter, especially if you're wrongly accused of its practice.
    Tech watcher
  • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

    This article illustrates why extreme care is required in even alleging such involvement. Clearly that level of care is lacking here! Personally that possibility is enough that I have taken my personal web site off line.
    pearl298
  • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

    Why is the Department of Homeland Security involved in this?
    Hallowed are the Ori
    • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

      @Hallowed are the Ori
      That's what I was thinking, although after reading this: "...was accidentally caught up in the ICE sweep of domains taken down" - my thought was why is Immigration Enforcement in charge of a kiddie-porn investigation?
      reziol
    • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

      @Hallowed are the Ori

      That's the first thing I wondered, too.
      none none
  • This espouses why DHS should not have this power

    They are willing to use it unconstitutionally, but not willing to do their due diligence to make sure that they are not taking down the right domain.

    I also have to say that this is not a real problem. What the real problem is: the boogie-manning of pedosexuality in general. Just get off your ass and realize that it is a normal sexuality, and like any other normal sexuality, the bad things in it (forcing children into sexual encounters, etc.) is best taken care of by parents and others who watch the children to make sure that is not happening and legalization of the sexuality in question.
    Lerianis10
    • This would go against all social norms

      @Lerianis10

      So if your kid were attacked or abused, you would expect the parents to "take care of it"??? Would you expect the same if your kid was shot, run over, or robbed? I guess we don't need police after all, eh?
      terry flores
    • Are you SERIOUS!!??

      @Lerianis10

      Spoken like a true pedophile,...
      seaczar63
      • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

        @seaczar63

        And I bet you dismissed all of us who said that acceptance of homosexuality as "normal" would serve as the gateway to all kinds of sexual deviance becoming considered "normal"...
        hiraghm
    • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

      @Lerianis10 Wtf dude... Pedophelia should not be legal. The parents do not have the right to consent on behalf of the kid. People who do not have the mental capacity to consent to sex, namely children, are by definition being raped. <br><br>I hope you enjoy jail when the feds come for you, you sick sick puppy. You know what they do to pedophiles in jail right?
      snoop0x7b
      • Actually,

        @snoop0x7b

        Actually, from my understanding (I did some research in to this awhile back when I was 19 and my gf was 17) the parents are the only ones who can consent for a minor. It's because they are a minor that they do not have the right to consent on their own.

        Of course, anything that would considered abuse or neglect doesn't count, but what I'm trying to say is, if the parent had a problem with their daughter having sex with me, that's essentially non-consent by the parent.

        There was some kind of 3 year difference leniency too, but that only applied if both kids were minors, not one being a minor and one legally an adult.
        midenginedrift
    • I hope you don't have kids

      @Lerianis10
      If you think this is "normal sexuality" that parents need to "take care of" then I hope you don't have kids of your own because they would be in unfathomable danger. My siblings and I led a very sheltered life. Our parents were extremely protective, and yet my sister was abused by the local "Chester the Molester" while still in grammar school. I knew nothing of the incident for nearly 30 years. My mother didn't learn of the event until nearly a decade later, and my father not much before I did.

      Parents cannot, as much as we try, protect our children from every possible danger 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Pedophilia is an abhorrent, aberrant, and psychologically (not to mention physiologically) damaging tendency.

      That you can defend such behavior sickens me.
      use_what_works_4_U
    • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

      @Lerianis10
      WTF!!?
      moonlight583
  • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

    Hitler would be proud.
    Ron Burgundy
  • Department of Homeland Security

    A complete hoax of a department created by Bush/Cheney to staff political cronies into another arm of the ever growing government. So yeah, I'm sure they can't figure out the difference between their nose-hole from a hole in the ground.
    james347
    • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

      Oh please. The rank amateur currently inhabiting the White House shoulders the blame now... well, he should.
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

      @james347<br>Your Obama is in charge now. I as well as most all of America has grown tired of your Bush conspiracy. I thought W. sucked also but when is the opposition to blame if ever ? How is this for conspiracy, maybe Bush was elected to destroy the GOP and put New World Order Bildabergers in charge. If not, when are all the benefits of electing this "professional community organizer" supposed to bear fruit. Bush had the Patriot Act and now Obama wants in charge of every known form of media known to man. Do you really feel he is any different ? Where is your proof ?
      partman1969
    • Actually, Bush & Cheney and republicans were against the DHS,

      and it was democrats who forced Bush and republicans to create another layer of government. It was the democrats' penchant for more government that forced Bush's hand in accepting the DHS. And, with a new agency, there would come, more government jobs and more union workers, who are the bread-and-butter of democrat voting ranks. <br><br>The DHS was born during the Bush years, but it wasn't because Bush wanted it. Look up the news stories of the time and you'll learn something.
      adornoe
      • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

        @adornoe@... Yeah, the democrats somehow, despite being in the minority in both the house and senate, forced him to do it! You tell him! Oh wait, your logic doesn't add up.
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography

        @adornoe@...
        Bush built bigger government! I'm well aware of that. True conservatism would limit government, but the real problem today lies in people's insistence government can solve, or should be involved. Far from the truth !!!!!
        partman1969