I reported earlier in the week that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had seized a domain name belonging to an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist.
It seems I may have jumped the gun. The seizure of lowellsfacts.com almost certainly didn’t happen.
Ars Technica called up ICE for the affidavit used to win the court order to seize the domain, and received this statement from an apparently baffled press officer:
ICE has not taken any enforcement action against this site. The site owner/administration redirected www.lowellsfacts.com to our name server, where the seizure banner is hosted.
If this is true, it seems that any idiot can change their name servers to ns1.seizedservers.com and ns2.seizedservers.com and ICE will happily serve up a warning about copyright infringement without even checking whether the domain has actually been seized.
While the lowellsfacts.com case did seem odd, I had assumed that ICE was doing some basic domain verification before displaying its increasingly infamous banner.
This was not an unreasonable assumption – previously, domains seized due to child pornography have displayed a different banner to those involvement with counterfeiting.
There is some code on the site checking the incoming domains before displaying the banner, in other words, apparently just not enough to stop the wave of spoof seizures we’re now likely to see.