JotForm takedown shows anti-SOPA hysteria wasn't alarming enough

Secret Service takes down JotForm, lets it up again, still with no explanation

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Tank's contact at GoDaddy told him the shutdown was due to a Secret Service investigation and gave him a number to call.

When he used ti to contact the Secret Service agent in charge of the operation for an explanation, she said she was busy, asked for his phone number and promised to call him back, according to a later post from Tank.

Yesterday afternoon GoDaddy got word from wherever Internet-shutdown orders come from that it could put JotForm back in its DNS listings. GoDaddy got no further explanations; JotForm got no explanations at all.

"We will probably never find out the reason for the suspension," Tank wrote in an email to customers. "It has been a very difficult two days for both our users and for us. So, I hope this is the end."

A Secret Service spokesman told CNET the agency was "aware of the incident" and was "reviewing it internally to make sure all the proper procedures and protocols were followed."

It sounds as if the only protocol that was followed was the silent treatment – an approach favored by authoritarian organizations that consider it their right to enforce the rules but view any questions about their methods to be interference from perpetrators who have no right to know for what they're being harassed or arrested anyway.

I'm sure there was more to it than that; it can't be that one Secret Service officer made the decision that JotForm was probably guilty of copyright violation based on anonymous accusations. It can't be that the Secret Service would shut down an entire business so indolently that the agent who made the decision didn't care enough about it even to tell the alleged perpetrator it had happened, let alone why.

Having the whole thing just go away so JotForm could pop up on the 'net again – still with no explanation for why it was disappeared in the first place – makes the whole process more capricious, less predictable and expands the degree to which the whole thing violates the due-process rights of the web sites being shut down.

That may seem like no big deal to many, especially when the topic is music-, movie- and software piracy, a lot of which goes on online even though it doesn't do a fraction the amount of damage copyright holders claim.

But in the real world, how loud would the screaming be, how severe would be the penalties for agents involved if the Secret Service rolled up in front of a retail store, ordered it to close its doors, padlocked the place, placed a guard to make sure it wasn't reopened and then drove off without an explanation?

Photo Credit: 

Reuters

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