Censorship In The United States – WARNING – Avoid U.S. Hosting And TLDs

Once again I’m going to annoy a lot of people. However, what else is new?

It’s no longer safe to use United States based hosting, or to use Domain Names which use an American controlled TLD (Top-Level Domain).

Domain Name Seizures

Everyone knows about the ‘big seizure’, where the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security seized a 82 domain names. Most people probably haven’t read the press release, which says:

ICE seizes 82 website domains involved in selling counterfeit goods as part of Cyber Monday crackdown

WASHINGTON – Seizure orders have been executed against 82 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0, as part of an ongoing investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Now it’s quite probably that most of these sites sold counterfeited goods, however several of the sites were music blogs. They didn’t sell anything. Another site was a Torrent search engine. Again, it didn’t sell anything. In other words, the press release contains outright lies.

TorrentFreak obtained a copy of the affidavit filed by the DHS agent. It makes an interesting read.

ICE Affidavit Partial http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf

As Torrent Freak reports, the agent made a series of major mistakes in the affidavit, mistakes that will almost certainly haunt DHS should this ever go to trial. And at least one website owner is planning to sue DHS to get his domain back.

However if your domain name is seized, and it takes you a year to get it back, it could drive your company into bankruptcy. It doesn’t matter that your site is perfectly legal. All that matters is someone from DHS files an affidavit, a judge approves the seizures, and ICANN gives the domains to DHS.

This is why a lot of sites are now migrating to Top-Level Domains that aren’t controlled by the United States Government.

Hosting In The United States

Hosting is another issue. Have you ever heard of Blogetery? No? Most people haven’t. However in a clear foreshadowing of the Domain Name Seizures, in July Blogetery went offline.

Blogetery is a blog hosting service, run by Alexander Yusupov. Alexander lives in Toronto, not thirty minutes from my home. But his hosting was in the United States. And on July 9, 2010, his hosting provider, BurstNet, shut him down.

This is where it gets confusing. BurstNet made several claims over the next few days as to why they shut him down. One of the claims was that a law enforcement agency had asked them to shut him down, due to a critical law enforcement issue, and that they couldn’t return his data to him.

Then they said it wasn’t a law enforcement issue, it was a Terms of Service issue. Then they said that they would give data back to Alexander.

The end result is that Blogetery.com is back online. But…

Do you really want to take chances? In almost all other countries, Alexander would have had warning there was a problem. In the United States he was just shut down.

So my recommendation is that you don’t use American hosting or TLDs. It’s just not safe. Of course this will be hard on the American hosting companies, however if they want to change the situation, they need to talk to their government.

Regards

Wayne Borean

Saturday January 1, 2010

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7 thoughts on “Censorship In The United States – WARNING – Avoid U.S. Hosting And TLDs

  1. Wayne/others please help:

    I’ve searched and searched. Somebody please provide a complete comprehensive factual list of ALL TLDs controlled by the US/UScorps.. for example is “.fm” controlled or shut-down-able by the US? Please help… Nowhere on the internet have a I found a proper list of exactly which TLDs are owned/controlled/shut-down-able by USG/UScorps… this will help all of us with anti-censorship concerns!

    1. What you need is on the ICANN website. To the best of my knowledge all three letter (com, org, net, et al) are United States controlled through ICANN. The two letter, or country domains are controlled in theory by their country, however in some cases the country in question may have hired an American firm to market the domains. This mostly happened with third world countries which didn’t have the capabilities to handle registrations themselves. I know Canada is safe, and since that’s where I live, I didn’t bother to check further.

      I wouldn’t touch:

      .com
      .edu
      .gov
      .int
      .mil
      .net
      .org
      .biz
      .info
      .name
      .pro
      .aero
      .coop
      .museum

      As I said, I know that .ca is safe. I suspect that .de, .fr, and .uk are safe, but you’d better check to be sure.

      Wayne

  2. The bit torrent search engine world is constantly changing. Search engines come and go, for every service that disappears, a handful more appear.  One of these sites is http://www.torrentoff.com  This sites don’t just make it easy to search for and find torrents, they’re a great resource for finding interesting files, movies and TV shows if you’re looking for something to keep you entertained.

  3. Keep well away from co.uk and org.uk, the new Nominet terms and conditions are probably the worst on the planet at the moment, they state that you are only renting the domain for 2 years and that they can seize it at anytime they like for no reason whatsoever, they have seized over 5000 domains in the last few years and don’t even bother to reply to your emails.

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