The government is shutting down websites. Is it playing fair?
Screenshot of a seized website.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been going after sites they deem to be mostly featuring pirated content or counterfeit goods. There was a big crackdown on Black Friday last November when about 80 sites were seized. That seizure led to lots of questions of whether free speech rights were violated and whether the search was legal.
On Tuesday, ICE shut down 10 websites that they say stream sporting and pay-per-view events online. Timed just in time for the Super Bowl. What's notable about this particular action is that the seized sites did not actually host the illegal material; they were pages of links.
We talk to Special Agent James Hayes from ICE about the raids. He says that the offending sites were believed to have been receiving revenue from the illegal operations and that the 10 that were seized were the most egregious and blatant offenders. He says there is a process to apply for reinstatement but no site operator has ever bothered in the past.
We also talk to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who has written an open letter to the agency questioning whether these tactics are advisable or even legal. He fears the tactic of seizing sites and shutting them down before they have a chance to defend themselves circumvents the legal system.
And we check in with Wendy Seltzer, a fellow with the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy. She wonders if, by going after linking sites, the prosecution of piracy is getting further from the criminals.