The U.S. government has claimed it has the right to seize and shut down any .com, .tv, .net, .cc, .name, or .org domain, no matter whether or not the site itself is based within the United States.
Last week, Canadian gambling site Bodog.com was seized by US authorities because online gambling is illegal in the United States. The Canadian billionaire owner of the website was prosecuted for his involvement in what is labeled a crime in America, but is perfectly legal in Canada.
The seizure of Bodog.com took place under the auspices of an internet regulatory program entitled Operation In Our Sites, which was originally set up to monitor the web for copyright infringement and the sale or distribution of illegal materials.
The Bodog.com scandal sparked somewhat of an outcry online, because Operation In Our Sites was originally thought to be confined to websites and organizations based within the United States, but as it turns out, the government’s reach is no longer confined to national borders.
In fact, last week’s shutdown is only one in a long list of foreign-registered domains seized and eliminated by the American government. RT is reporting that over the past several years, roughly 750 domains have been seized, “most with foreign-based registrars.”
So why is the government allowed to apply the laws of the United States to individuals residing and doing business in another country? Well, because the U.S. basically claims ownership of the internet.
Verisign, the only corporate entity allowed to issue .com domains (or .net, .tv, .cc, and on, and on…) is based in the States, and thus the process of domain seizure goes something like this:
- American authorities discover a website that seems to infringe upon American law
- American authorities obtain a court order requiring Verisign to remove said domain
- American authorities present Verisign with said order
- Verisign shuts down the specified domain, regardless of the site’s legality according to the country in which it’s based
Thus, America owns (and now, clearly, actively polices) the internet. The U.S. government seems to have unlimited power in imposing its will upon websites that don’t bear its stamp of approval.
Who needs a kill switch?