Written On 5/9/11 By Recentpoker.com staff writer Lenny Wasman :
Has the Department of Homeland Security overstepped its authority?
The online publication Wired.com examined an apparent censorship attempt by the US government's Homeland Security department over the weekend, raising the question of how far the department's authority extends.
The article revolves around a ‘request' by the department to software developer Mozilla, which offers the popular Firefox internet browser, that it remove an add-on that allows web surfers to access websites whose domain names were seized by the government for copyright infringement.
The implications of this sort of censorship attempt will be clear to the online gambling industry, which has seen industry domains attacked by state and federal governments for a variety of reasons.
Mozilla's legal representatives are currently engaged in a debate with the department, and have revealed that the company's MafiaaFire add-on is at the centre of the argument, and that the department has been asked to give reasons why its request should be granted.
However, two weeks have passed since Homeland Security was asked to justify its request, and the government has not responded to Mozilla’s questions, which include whether the government considers the add-on unlawful and whether Mozilla is “legally obligated” to remove it.
The DHS has also not provided the company with a court order requiring the add-on's removal, a Mozilla lawyer pointed out.
“One of the fundamental issues here is under what conditions do intermediaries accede to government requests that have a censorship effect and which may threaten the open internet,” Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s lawyer, wrote on his blog.
Wired.com reports that the add-on in question redirects traffic from seized domains to other domains outside the jurisdictional reach of the United States.
In addition to internet gambling industry domain disputes such as the attempted Kentucky seizures and the recent Department of Justice actions against three major online poker sites, it appears that the U.S. government has seized at least 120 domains in an antipiracy initiative known as “Operation in Our Sites.”
The domains were taken under the same federal statute used to seize drug houses.
Many of these seized sites have been redirected by their owners to domains being hosted where the United States cannot legally touch them, Wired.com notes.
The add-on that has spurred Homeland Security to approach Mozilla has been downloaded more than 6,400 times, the internet publication reveals.