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Mozilla defies US Homeland Security over browser extension

May 7, 2011 2:37pm
Software maker Mozilla has defied a request from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take down the "MafiaFire" add-on to its Firefox web browser.

Mozilla business affairs vice president and general counsel Harvey Anderson said that the DHS requested the removal of "MafiaaFire" without legal justification.

"Our approach is to comply with valid court orders, warrants, and legal mandates, but in this case there was no such court order ... To date we’ve received no response from Homeland Security nor any court order," Anderson said in his blog.

He said that MafiaaFire redirects a user from one domain name to another, similar to a mail-forwarding service.

In this case, he explained that the MafiaaFire add-on redirects traffic from domains allegedly seized for streaming copyrighted sports and media content to other domains.

Anderson said that Mozilla had asked the DHS to clarify the latter's request with a list of questions, including:

  • Have any courts determined that the Mafiaafire add-on is unlawful or illegal in any way? If so, on what basis?
  • Is Mozilla legally obligated to disable the add-on or is this request based on other reasons? If other reasons, can you please specify.
  • Can you please provide a copy of the relevant seizure order upon which your request to Mozilla to take down the Mafiaafire add-on is based?

"One of the fundamental issues here is under what conditions do intermediaries accede to government requests that have a censorship effect and which may threaten the open Internet. Others have commented on these practices already. In this case, the underlying justification arises from content holders legitimate desire to combat piracy. The problem stems from the use of these government powers in service of private content holders when it can have unintended and harmful consequences," Anderson said.

Meanwhile, the creator of MafiaaFire indicated that a version of the extension is in the works for Google's Chrome browser.

The creator likewise scored the DHS for having very little legal grounds for trying to put down MafiaaFire.

"(Hats) off to Mozilla for sticking up to them, at first we were afraid if Mozilla would even host it due to its controversial nature but they truly backed up their open source supporting words with actions," the creator said in a website post.

"A note to the DHS - as a government entity you are supposed to act within the law, even though the domain seizures were deplorable you made the ... effort to get some (totally unrelated) screenshots and go through the courts to give it some semblance of a lawful act," the creator added. — TJD, GMA News
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