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DHS Tries to Subtract Mozilla Add-On

Aden Fine,
Senior Staff Attorney,
ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project
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May 6, 2011

The government appears to be up to its old tricks again. As Mozilla General Counsel Harvey Anderson reports, the Department of Homeland Security recently requested that Mozilla take down a Firefox add-on that helps users access information on the Internet. DHS apparently told Mozilla that the MafiaaFire add-on at issue circumvents a court order entitling DHS to seize certain domain names in an attempt to prevent individuals from accessing websites allegedly engaged in copyright infringement.

Leaving aside the issue of whether DHS can constitutionally seize websites through court proceedings without first providing due process rights to the websites, whether speech is unlawful is for the courts to determine, not for DHS or any government entity to decide. The U.S. government should not be in the business of trying to get speech removed from the Internet absent valid court orders declaring that speech to be unlawful. After all, online content, like all speech, is protected by the First Amendment.

This is not the first time that government entities have tried to get speech removed from the Internet without first obtaining a court order. It unfortunately won’t be the last time either. Mozilla did the right thing, and it should be applauded. Instead of blindly doing what DHS requested, Mozilla asked the government reasonable questions to determine if there was really a lawful basis for taking down the speech, and it let the public know that it received this request. Twitter also stood up for user privacy and free speech earlier this year in response to a government demand for information about its users. Will the services you use do the same?

It’s time for all ISPs and other online service providers to commit to protecting user rights and to be transparent about government demands. Sign our petition and tell Internet companies that you expect them to stand up for your rights and be transparent about government demands. A free and open Internet depends on them.

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