I was on a panel recently with a member of Congress who took the position that rogue sites are like crackhouses–remember, he came up with that all by himself. ICE seizures of domain names was like having a crackhouse in your neighborhood and hiding the street name and number in that block. This sounds like something the EFF would come up with, but let’s leave that to one side for now.
While it is true that merely changing the DNS address still leaves the underlying website in place with a bunch of screwed up links, and while it is true that one rogue site moved to a remote island owned by Australia and continued operating until the Australians threw them out, too, the analogy isn’t really on point.
Here’s the real analogy: It’s just like having a crack house in your neighborhood and the government gets a court order to put up a roadblock to the house. The government tells the owners of the crackhouse that they don’t own that house anymore. The government makes this point by putting police line tape all around the house and hanging the government’s “condemned” sign on the front door. The owners are told they are welcome to try to find a way to continue to sell crack from the house without the cops catching them. They are also put on notice that the government is trying to track them down to bring them personally to justice, and they should also enjoy running their business from their seized bank accounts and that they are cut off from using credit cards to sell their crack and prey upon the citizenry.
So it’s a lot more than just masking their address. And sure, there’s nothing to stop the dealers from setting up business somewhere else.
The answer isn’t don’t bother trying to stop them. Unless of course, the member would feel the same way about hookers turning tricks in his front yard. Why bother to try to stop them, either, right?
Of course, this is bunk. Except for the fact that ICE really is trying to stop the sale of illegal drugs with some of the seizures, which is probably the most dangerous part of this analogy for a member of Congress.
But I’m glad that the member did put forward that crackhouse analogy. That’s a good one, he just reached the wrong conclusions. I think that we should all take his lead in trying to find analogs for the right punishment for people who willfully and wantonly use the Internet to destroy people’s lives.