Monday, November 29, 2010

Internet to be suppressed in the U.S.?

I saw the graphic being placed on certain websites and thought it had to be a myth. There is no way this graphic could possibly be from the Department of Homeland Security. What a joke!

I found it at And the page "title" says, "This domain name has been seized by ICE - Homeland Security Investigations."

But, come on! "National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center: 'Protection is our Trademark'"?!? And the picture of a badge for a "Special Agent" of "Homeland Security Investigations"?!? This is some kind of spoof, isn't it?

But Mike Adams, who brought it to my attention, seemed to be in dead earnest:
As part of a new expansion of government power over information, the Department of Homeland Security has begun seizing and shutting down internet websites (web domains) without due process or a proper trial. DHS simply seizes web domains that it wants to and posts an ominous "Department of Justice" logo on the web site. See an example at

Over 75 websites were seized and shut down last week, and there is no indication that the government will stop such efforts. Right now, their focus is websites that they claim "violate copyrights," yet the website that was seized by DHS contained no copyrighted content whatsoever. It was merely a search engine website that linked to destinations where people could access copyrighted content. Google also links to copyrighted content -- does that mean the feds will soon seize Google, too?
I thought, "This has got to be a joke!"--a response strengthened by my having found Mike complaining in all seriousness, just the day before, about a 1950s-era ad from the "Soda Pop Board of America"--an ad that I found was totally bogus.
I can't figure out how to link directly to my comments on the Natural News website, so I quote it here:
Please don't embarrass yourself by referencing fake/parody ads as if they were real! Please see . . . which references There is and never was a Soda Pop Board of America. --Or do you have some further evidence of which I (and, apparently, a number of bloggers--see here and here, for just two examples) are unaware? Indeed, considering the outcry you created the last time you posted this, why would you post it again?
Despite my misgivings, however, I followed up.

And it seems there really may be some substance to what he's talking about.

It appears ICE - Homeland Security Investigations is "merely" jumping out ahead a little of pending legislation, S.3804, COICA--the Combatting Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act. And "all" they're trying to do is (something that I applaud, in principle) protect the rights of intellectual property owners.

The problem is the methodology.

As Professor David Post of the Beasley School of Law, Temple University, has written concerning COICA:
In place of a final determination after an adversary proceeding that the website in question contain infringing material, the Act permits the issuance of speech-suppressing injunctions without any meaningful opportunity for any party to contest the Attorney General’s allegations of unlawful content. The domain name registrars, registries, service providers, and domain name server operators against whom injunctions can be issued pursuant to the Act will have, in virtually all cases, no information whatsoever concerning the allegations regarding the presence of infringing content at the target websites because they have no relationship to the operators of those websites; they are therefore in no position, and they have no conceivable incentive, to contest those allegations. The Act contains no provisions designed to ensure that the persons actually responsible for the allegedly infringing content – the operators of the target websites – are even aware of the proceedings against them, let alone have been afforded any meaningful opportunity to contest the allegations in a true, adversarial proceeding. These target websites, by virtue of the Act’s assertion of in rem jurisdiction over domain names, may (and presumably often will) be located in, and/or controlled by citizens of, other countries; the Act specifically permits courts in these actions to exercise jurisdiction provided only that either:
          (a) the domain name registrar, or the domain name registry, is located within the United States, or
          (b) the domain has been accessed by users within the United States, and the website “conducts business directed to the United States” and “harms holders of United States intellectual property rights.”
     Rather than give these foreign website operators a meaningful opportunity to be heard and to contest the allegations of illegality in an adversarial hearing, the Act requires only that the Attorney General notify the domain name registrant – who may, but in many cases will not, be the operator of the website in question – of an intent to proceed against the site. Injunctions may be entered entirely ex parte, without the participation of any other party, and the Act does not provide for any review of a judge’s ex parte determination that the website in question contains unlawful material. This falls far short of what the Constitution requires before speech can be eliminated from public circulation.
At root: We're looking at censorship. And, as Post concludes his letter, the loss of free speech under this law would have deep significance:
At a time when dozens of foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications in order to suppress legitimate dissent, to marginalize religious minorities, and to prevent citizens from obtaining information about the world outside their borders, the United States has always been a voice – often the only voice – opposing these efforts. Our ability to defend the principle of the single global Internet – the Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas, the Internet that looks the same to, and allows free and unfettered communication between, users located in Shanghai and Seattle and Santiago, free of locally-imposed censorship regimes – will be deeply compromised by enactment of S. 3804, which would enshrine in U.S. law for the first time the contrary principle: that all countries have a right to insist on the removal of content, wherever located, from the global Internet in service of the exigencies of local law. Nothing limits the application of this principle to copyright or trademark infringement, and nothing limits the application of this principle to actions by the United States; when all countries exercise this prerogative in support of their local legal regimes, as they surely will, we will have lost – or, more properly speaking, we will have destroyed – the single global inter-connected communications platform that we have built over the past several decades and that holds out so much promise for the improvement of human society across the globe.
Post and his colleagues (the letter is co-signed by over 50 law school professors) have much more to say. I encourage you to read it. It does a nice job of explaining the constitutional issues involved.

Mike Adams notes,
Today the U.S. government is targeting websites focused on copyright violations, but if the public tolerates this government-sponsored censorship of the web, it's only a matter of time before these government powers are expanded to control the content of the internet.

Over the last few years, several U.S. Senators have already attempted to outlaw vitamins and nutritional supplements. One lawmaker even suggested that "alternative health" information should be outlawed on the internet in order to "protect" people from information that isn't aligned with the drugs-and-surgery approach to sick care. It's only a matter of time, it seems, before the U.S. government uses its new power of seizing internet websites as an information warfare weapon to silence anyone who opposes FDA and the Big Pharma agenda.

In fact, under these new laws, there's no limit to what websites the U.S. government could choose to seize and shut down. This is the beginning of the federal takeover of the internet, where all websites that don't fall in line with "official" government-approved information are now potential targets of DHS seizures.

One music website seized by DHS -- -- was seized merely because its users posted comments linking to file-sharing websites ( The site had 150,000 members, but as of today, it is the property of "Homeland Security Investigations."
But, again, he's being hysterical, isn't he? We're not talking about legalizing the suppression of legitimate free speech! We're talking about shuttering sites that engage in theft!

Aren't we?

Maybe not.

Adams encourages readers to "See the news report" about RapGodFather. --I did. And it is disturbing, indeed.

"Australia in recent years set up a 'firewall' around its Internet, with the intention of blacklisting child pornography Web sites," wrote Daniel Tencer on --And which of us wants to promote child pornography? I certainly don't!
But a list of the blocked sites, leaked to Wikileaks, showed that the Australian government was censoring more than porn: The blacklist contained religious and political Web sites.

According to the Melbourne Age:
[A]bout half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, . . . Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions . . . , Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.

"It seems to me as if just about anything can potentially get on the list," [University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn] Landfelt said.
As predicted by some critics, the "great Aussie firewall" ended up blocking access to parts of WikiLeaks.
--For more on COICA, see Will Internet censorship bill be pushed through lame-duck Congress?.
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