Predictably, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) did not have a positive reaction upon learning about a recently-developed Firefox browser plug-in which automatically redirects users around seized domains to websites’ new, and usually foreign, Internet addresses.
According to a blog post published Thursday by Mozilla legal and business affairs representative Harvey Anderson, the DHS recently contacted the Firefox developer requesting that the MafiaaFIRE plugin be removed from the company’s website.
“The ICE Homeland Security Investigations unit alleged that the add-on circumvented a seizure order DHS had obtained against a number of domain names,” Anderson writes in the post.
But rather than simply comply with the ICE request, the Mozilla staff stood their ground.
“Our approach is to comply with valid court orders, warrants, and legal mandates, but in this case there was no such court order,” Anderson explains. “Thus, to evaluate Homeland Security’s request, we asked them several questions… to understand the legal justification.”
But rather than simply dismissing the ICE actions, Anderson tries to give readers a fair picture of the situation.
“In this case, the underlying justification arises from content holders’ legitimate desire to combat piracy. The problem stems from the use of these government powers in service of private content holders when it can have unintended and harmful consequences,” He writes. “Long term, 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.”
Mozilla has yet to hear back from government officials.
Curiously, the actual developer of the MafiaaFire plugin was not contacted even though the download is also available from their website. When contacted about the Mozilla situation, however, the developer praised the company for their stance.
“Hats off to Mozilla for sticking up to them. At first we weren’t sure if Mozilla would even host it due to its controversial nature, but they truly backed up their open source supporting words with actions,” the developer told TorrentFreak.
I’d like to echo the “hats off” sentiment to Mozilla. Instead of taking the easy way out, they’ve stood up and asked some tough questions of the ICE. We’ll be watching to see what happens next.