If your domain ends in .com, theUnited States governmentsays it has the right to seize it from your control, reportsWired. The same goes for any URL that ends in .net, .cc, .tv, .name, and .org.
This troubling declaration of power comes after US authorities shutdown the online sports gambling siteBodog.comlast week — even though the website was owned by aCanadian company, which many assumed put it outside of US jurisdiction. Not so, apparently. That’s because the only company allowed to issue new .com domains isVeriSign, which is based — you guessed it — in the US.
According to a spokesperson for the department ofImmigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE), anytime the US government wants to take down a .com, .net, .tv, or .name domain, all it has to do is issue a court order to VeriSign, which quickly complies. The same process applies to the Public Interest Registry, which controls the .org top-level domain.
VeriSign, for its part, argues that it is simply obeying the law.
“VeriSign responds to lawful court orders subject to its technical capabilities,” the company said in a statement. “When law enforcement presents us with such lawful orders impacting domain names within our registries, we respond within our technical capabilities.”
The seizure of Bodog is an extension of agovernmentinitiative calledOperation in Our Sites, which launched in June 2010, and has mainly focused on the seizure of US-based domains hocking counterfeit NFL jerseys, and other knockoff goods. As of November of last year, Operation in Our Sites had successfully seized 352 domains. And it obviously doesn’t look like they plan to stop anytime soon.
There a few reasons this brazen flaunting of power is troubling. First, it suggests that the federal government plans to impose its authority on a wider swath of the Web. Second, it shows that while the Internet is a global service, it is still at the mercy of the US government and US law. Online gambling, for instance, isn’t illegal in all countries that have Internet access. And yet Bodog was shut down simply because US citizens could access it.
Finally, the federal government’s apparent determination to assert its authority on the Web should serve as a wake up call to anyone who thinks that the temporary defeat of SOPA and PIPA marked the end of the fight for Internet freedom. It didn’t. It marked the beginning.
I won’t lie, I’m tired. This fight is ridiculous, something we shouldn’t have to do. I am so incredibly exhausted by these attempts to break the internet, to break us. I’ve no more faith in our elected officials to accurately represent us in this capacity. They don’t know the internet like we do, for better or for worse. They did not grow up with it, they don’t use it like us, they don’t understand it and they don’t understand us.
I’m done placing my hope in them only to be disappointed. Time to look into what it takes to get into a public office and brush up on my political skills. If I can’t trust in them then I would be better served doing the job myself.