Under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed in 1998 the Obama administration has shut down 73,000 blogs this week which were hosted on the Blogetery.com WordPress based hosting service. Initially the target was a small group of sites which were incolved in illegal file sharing, but ultimately a request was issued to BurstNet, the Blogetery.com’s hosting provider, to shut down the entire network of 73,000 blogs, most of which were engaged in no illegal activity, including harmless sites like Science Experiments for Kids and political sites like Tea and Politics.
This is the first use of the DMCA on this scale and it has frightening implications for the future. Under the act no warrant or any kind of due process is required because the government makes its request directly of the ISP involved and can penalize it administratively if it fails to comply. There is no standard for proof of illegal activity and the target of the action has no protection under the act. Many on both the right and left are concerned that this could lay the groundwork for the shut down of political sites critical of the administration, either arbitrarily or as part of some future campaign finance or net neutrality legislation.
It would be virtually impossible to run a site hosting service with any large membership without having some users engaging in some sort of questionable activity and it is unrealistic to expect a hosting company to police thousands of individual users. Critics of this action believe that first amendment rights and due process should be respected and that the burden of proof should fall on the government to identify and punish only the actual wrongdoers rather than shutting down thousands of innocent sites to get a few malefactors.Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.