The government is certainly following that old phrase, “better to seek forgiveness than permission” lately. Well, except until it comes to the forgiveness part.
It’s now come out that in The Land of the Free, the Department of “Justice” had phone records for five more phones at Fox News. Every day, things get worse and worse for the tyrannical government. What else would you call an organization that spies on its own people, shakes down the press, and denies tax equality to political groups it doesn’t agree with?
At least in the Soviet Union, this kind of madness was an open secret. Everyone, even overseas, knew about the KGB. The people didn’t trust their government and for good reason. But in the United States, most people excuse almost any infraction by calling it an outlier.
A random case.
Because the kind of government oppression seen in fallen authoritarian governments like that of the USSR could never happen “here”.
With all of the chaos going on, I’m reminded of a very important rule when it comes to protecting your internet privacy: be careful where you register your domain name.
If you’re not familiar, a domain name is the name of a website, like nomadcapitalist.com. If you run a business, have a charitable group, or just run your own blog, chances are you have one or many. Most people look for something ending in “dot com” as the best domain, and most people register their domain with one of the large domain registration services based in the US.
However, just as US Big Government is showing it’s true colors now, it has taken similarly chilling actions against web site owners.
In 2010, Big Government launched “Operation in Our Sites”, a campaign to shut down web sites selling counterfeit goods. They shut down close to 800 different sites simply by asking a magistrate judge to do so.
Due process? That’s for suckers. While it’s true you might think all the endless jabbering about “freedom” means people are actually entitled to their day in court, you’d be wrong.
In almost all of these cases, the government simply got a warrant from a judge to seize the domain name and place it in their custody. The other side – the business owner – was given no chance to respond. Was not summoned to present his or her case.
And usually wasn’t even notified until he found out his site had a big “Seized” logo on the front page.
One site in the music business was shut down for over a year while the government gathered evidence related to its “linking” to pirated music.
During their half-cocked “investigation”, the rightful owner of the site had no ability to know what was going on; the whole process was on closed for review. Ultimately, they discovered the site owner had violated no laws and returned the site to him without filing civil or criminal penalties.
Of course, because they’re the government, they had no need to apologize, nor a need to compensate the site owner for 13 months of lost business. They simply said “here you go” and returned what they stole.
Imagine if thieves could steal your living room TV, use it for through next summer, then return it with a few new scuffs and say they never meant to take it.
In the ultimate digital example of The Land of the Free’s we-own-everything arrogance, Uncle Sam has also deemed it reasonable to confiscate almost any domain name in existence solely on a technicality.
Because domains ending in “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, and “.cc” go through clearinghouses managed by US-based companies like Verisign, Big Government has determined it should be allowed to seize any domain with those endings any time it deems fit. All it has to do is go shake down Verisign and scare them into compliance.
And because they’re the government and you’re not, there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s not like these kinds of things go up for a vote. They’re merely decided by some bureaucrat whose wife wouldn’t put out for the last week. Tough luck for the rest of us.
In 2012, the Department of “Homeland Security” seized Bodog.com, an internet gambling site run out of Canada.
With servers, bank accounts, operations, and management having no ties to the United States, you’d wonder just how Janet Napolitano’s merry band of thugs could do that. Well, they used the “any dot-com is ours” rule, of course.
Republicans in Congress, not content with running up a massive war debt and doing nothing to prevent the forthcoming economic collapse, spent their time in power during the mid-2000s crafting laws like those that made online gambling illegal.
The government then used those laws to exact vengeance on any company with US-based gambling customers.
Government will put the burden of doing their job on everybody else, then lash out when people and businesses don’t do what was never their job in the first place.
Think about it what would happen if some politician in France said, “internet gambling is illegal here, and since your company has French customers, we’re seizing your property and wiping you out”. The world would throw a hissy fit.
Brain-dead politicians in the US would get on their soapbox and decry the egregious actions of the French government, and probably throw in some words like “socialist” or “baguette-eating” in the process.
But The Land of the Free is exempt from such scorn. And their general public gives them a free pass on their hypocrisy.
If you have a website, consider getting an extension that isn’t “.com”. That may be tough for those who use their domain in heavy advertising or as part of their brand, but examine other options.
I personally own domains ending in “.re” (perhaps appropriate for real estate professionals) and “.yt”. These domains are managed by the territorial governments of Reunion and Mayotte, both overseas departments of France located in the Indian Ocean.
They cost me all of $15 a year each, and it’s easy to find domains you could never get with a “.com”. In fact, a friend of mine was looking at registering Matt.re the other day.
There are plenty of other domain options. After all, even the smallest of countries have their own top-level domain extension.
What about “.co.uk” (UK), “.es” (Spain), or “.com.hk” (Hong Kong)? Find a country that doesn’t make a business out of messing with normal people and get your domain there.
I recommend onlydomains.com as a great domain registrar. Their only offices are in New Zealand and Australia, so they have no connection to the US. They also have just about every possible domain extension you could ever imagine, all the way down to Botswana.
Offshoring your domain name is just one way to apply internationalization principles to your every day life. Government threats are everywhere and no matter how prepared you try to be, there are always small loose ends that could come back to bite you.
The US government isn’t likely to come down from its power trip that it owns the world anytime soon, so it’s up to you to protect yourself and your domain name. You never know what they’ll decide is illegal next… until you see “Seized” splashed across what used to be this site.