Approximately 84,000 websites were shut down and wrongfully accused of having links to child pornography as part of "Operation Protect Our Children," a new joint operation between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ).


The DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Tuesday that it had executed seizure warrants against ten domain names of websites engaged in the distribution of child pornography, but during the operation the domain name of a large DNS service provider was also mistakenly seized, TorrentFreak reported.

The domain name mooo.com, which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS, hosted 84,000 subdomains, all of which were seized and replaced with a Homeland Security Investigations banner.

"On Friday February 11th at around 9:30 PM PST mooo.com (the most popular shared domain at afraid.org) was suspended at the registrar level," the FreeDNS owner said in a statement. "Freedns.afraid.org has never allowed this type of abuse of its DNS service. We are working to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible."

"Due to the way propagation works it will take 3 days for a restoration to take effect," the owner added. Most of the subdomains on mooo.com were for personal websites or small businesses, according to TorrentFreak.

"You can rest assured that I have not and would never be found to be trafficking in such distasteful and horrific content," one owner of a subdomain affected by the seizure wrote. "Last I knew, accusing someone of trafficking in or producing child pornography was about the worst thing you could ever do them, especially if it stuck."

The DHS banner stated: "Advertisement, distribution, transportation, receipt, and possession of child pornography constitute federal crimes that carry penalties for first time offenders of up to 30 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution."

"Each year, far too many children fall prey to sexual predators and all too often, these heinous acts are recorded in photos and on video and released on the Internet," Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said. "DHS is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to shut down websites that promote child pornography to protect these children from further victimization."

ICE has seized a number of domain names in the past few months, mostly of websites involved in pirating music, television or movies.

In the first week of February, ICE announced the domain names of ten "linking" websites had been seized for providing access to illegal, pirated telecasts of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Visitors to these websites now only see a banner that informs them the domain name was seized by the New York office of ICE because of criminal copyright violations.

The websites did not themselves host any illegal content, but allowed users to easily browse for links to third party websites that were hosting pirated videos, according to ICE.

The domain names were seized as part of "Operation in Our Sites," an ongoing investigation into websites that illegally offer copyrighted material.

In November 2010, the DHS closed down at least 76 domains. Many of the web domains were sites that trafficked in counterfeit brand name goods and some others linked to copyright-infringing file-sharing materials. At least one of the sites was a Google-like search engine: a revelation that caused alarm among web freedom advocates who worried the government's move stepped over the line.