Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Starts On-line Censorship

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Eighty-two domain names were seized in November 2010 for allegedly selling counterfeit materials include handbags and bootlegged DVDs. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made a statement that the federal operation had “targeted online retailers of a diverse array counterfeit goods”. The goods claimed to be sold were “illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software.”
The DHS seems to be tiptoeing in the music pool, testing its boundaries and seeing what it can get away with. ICE began seizing domain names mere days after Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, blocked the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), a bill that would effectively allow the government to censor any Web site it sees fit, and one that is widely viewed as an attack on our free speech.

The blogs were not selling DVDs or music as ICE claims. A few sites on the list, though, stuck out:, and are popular music blogs that were generally involved in the promotion of artists, rather than outright piracy. Well-known among rap fans for posting the latest videos, singles and remixes (always hosted from third-party download sites), their seizure was shocking, not just to the hip-hop blogosphere, but to music sites everywhere. Their inclusion on a list of sites that profit from manufacturing hard goods seemed arbitrary.

Normally, when a music site unwittingly posts a song that is not cleared for release, it will receive a standard, cease-and-desist form letter from the Recording Industry Association of America. If the site then removes the link or song, which most do, it will generally have no subsequent trouble. This most recent action, though, is an example of RIAA’s ever-expanding involvement in legislation, and reflects its consistently paranoid, regressive conception of the Internet. COIAA is, of course, backed by the music industry.

Of course, with COIAA, the music industry — and the takedown of relatively small sites like OnSmash and Rap Godfathers — is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, widely used hosting sites could end up in the government’s crosshairs as well; an act that would not only affect our ability to disseminate information, but would target our very outlets for free speech on the Internet:

Title: Here Come Homeland Security Internet Police, and They’re Already Shutting Down Web Sites They Don’t Like
Source: AlterNet: December 6th, 2010
Author: Julianne Escobedo Shepered

Student Researcher: Bradley Shadoan, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Noel Byrne, Sonoma State University