Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Mozilla Asks DHS to Justify Killing Firefox Add-on that Routes Around Seized Domains

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, May 6 2011

Firefox logo

The battle over U.S. law enforcement's domain name seizures has moved onto the browser plug-in front.

Mozilla, the open-source development organization that supports the development of the Firefox browser, is pushing back on what it says was a call from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to pull down a third-party browser add-on that redirects Internet users from domain names seized by federal law enforcement to websites still up and running.

The bit of code at the heart of the tussle is called MafiaaFire Redirector. "ICE taketh away," reads the FAQs on the add-on, "we giveth back!" Here, ICE refers to DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division, the branch of the department that has been lately seizing the domain names of websites that, it says, support copyright infringement or other illegal activities. MafiaaFire works by maintaining a list of the new addresses seized sites have moved to, and automagically pushing users to those new locations. It's a technique that makes sense because of the limits of domain name seizure as an enforcement technique. Taking down a domain name isn't like closing a physical store and claiming its inventory. It's more like pulling down a storefront sign in the hopes that people won't know where to go. MafiaaFire points people to where the store still exists.

It's easy to see why the Department of Homeland Security wouldn't be in love with MafiaaFire. But Mozilla's Harvey Anderson writes in a blog post yesterday that it's going to take more than DHS's displeasure to get the organization to get rid of the add-on. What's the legal justification for banning the code?, asks Mozilla. "Have any courts determined that the Mafiaafire add-on is unlawful or illegal in any way? If so, on what basis?" Anderson suggests that other Internet intermediaries should be thinking long and hard about how they comply with law enforcement requests of this nature. "Longterm," he writes, "the challenge is to find better mechanisms that provide both real due process and transparency without infringing upon developer and user freedoms traditionally associated with the Internet."

DHS hasn't yet responded, writes Anderson. Congress is currently considering a bill called COICA, for the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, that would strengthen law enforcement's hand when it comes to going after copyright violators at the domain name layer of the Internet.

(FYI -- Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's executive director, will be speaking at PdF '11.)

News Briefs

RSS Feed wednesday >

First POST: Transparency Matters

A return to pre-Watergate days?; Jeb Bush has already, apparently, forgotten about "transparency matters"; ghostwriting for government agencies; X-Lab going independent; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Waking Up

Hillary Clinton's deleted emails might not be as gone as she thinks; people making decisions about encryption know nothing about encryption; Meerkat is dead (already); finding out that Facebook filters the newsfeed is, to some like waking up in the Matrix; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Clueless

Why boycotting Indiana isn't the greatest idea; but people and companies are still doing it anyway; "Flak for Slack chaps in yak app hack flap"; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Net Effects

Ballooning digital campaign teams; early registration deadlines kept millions of people from voting in 2012; love letters to Obamacare; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Data-Driven

Get to know Clinton's digital team even better; Ted Cruz election announcement-related fundraising offers peak into the coming data-driven campaign arms race; New York City launches online community engagement pilot program called IdeaScale; and much, much more. GO

More