JotForm, a Web form building service used by hundreds of thousands of users, had its domain name seized by the Secret Service because of the actions of one of its users. According to the company’s blog post, its domain name was suspended by GoDaddy after the agency asked.
Without explaining further, the domain registrar told JotForm that the suspension was part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
On Hacker News, the founder of JotForm, Aytekin Tank, said that the Secret Service wasn’t being particularly helpful in resolving the matter, even though the company is ready to fully cooperate.
At this point, the company is still clueless on why the domain name is seized. “Our guess is that this is probably about a phishing form,” Aytekin wrote. If that is the case, the Secret Service may be in overkill mode, since the company is proactively weeding out accounts caught by its Bayesian phishing filter. “We also take any reports about phishing very seriously and quickly suspend the accounts and let the other party know about it,” he added.
For the time being, the company is using an alternative domain name at JotForm.net (instead of JotForm.com). All existing forms are still safe and sound, and they can be accessed using the new domain name.
This is why SOPA/PIPA is dangerous
Look no further if you’re wondering why the online community and tech companies reacted so harshly to SOPA and PIPA. The Secret Service, which I suppose has no interest in this case other than to investigate and prevent fraud, has taken down an innocent website just because of a wrongdoing by a single user.
Why? Because they can. And by doing so, they effectively remove the said phishing form(s) and possibly prevent would-be victims from falling into the trap. But what the service did not consider: The legitimacy of JotForm and its hundreds of thousands of other users.
Given the same power to censor websites, there is no guarantee that Hollywood or copyright holders in general will not do the same thing. Websites, regardless of their legitimacy, could suffer the same fate as JotForm whenever they are caught hosting or merely linking to an infringing item, even when it’s posted by a user.
It’s actually happening already, in case you’re not aware. In 2010, ICE took down a legitimate music blog, though it didn’t arrest or charge anyone with a “crime.” A year later, the domain name was returned to its owner without explanation.
The Internet breaks a little when the government has the power the seize domain names. It will be fully broken if Hollywood is ever put in charge.
Photo: David W.