The Rise of Web Censorship

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Back in 1964, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart of famously wrote on what was, and wasn’t “hard-core pornography” that, “I know it when I see it.” Today, free speech on the Web is impeded by far more restrictions than just what is, or isn’t, pornographic. On the Web in 2010, even the appearance of enabling file-sharing of copyright materials seems to be enough for the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to shut down Web-sites without notice .

ICE has shut down dozens of file-sharing and what are alleged to be counterfeit good sites such as Torrent-Finder.com, 2009jerseys.com, and Dvdcollects.com. Their domain names have been taken over by ICE leaving behind only a single page stating that “This domain name has been seized by ICE–Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court.”

You see, Torrent-Finder, which is back up under a new domain name, Torrent-Finder.info doesn’t host Torrent file or even BitTorrent file trackers. It’s just a search engine dedicated to file torrents such as movies, TV shows, or software programs. You can find the same file torrents with Google if you know what you’re doing. Torrent-Finder, and sites like it, just makes specific kinds of file searches easier.

I think its fine for the government to try to block the sales of fake LeBron James Miami Heat jerseys and the like. It’s when we start moving into the murkier land of intellectual property and the “right” to block searches, that I start getting worried.

I have reasons.