At best, this opposition is overblown. Site blocking is a well-established and well-accepted feature of the Internet marketplace, and it has never triggered technical breakdowns that these critics fear. Network administrators routinely block user access to thousands of websites each day for a variety of reasons: because those sites have been identified as sources of online fraud and abuse such as the dissemination of spam; propagation of computer viruses and “malware”; and even the dissemination images of child sexual abuse.
Most of this site blocking activity is the result of voluntary cooperative arrangements among Internet security experts, consumer protection organizations, child advocacy services, and similar groups. Blocking operates invisibly to the average Internet user. As a battle-hardened veteran of the fight against Internet-based crime and abuse, I know that site blocking has been remarkably effective to stem the tide of fraud and filth that threatens to overwhelm this remarkable communications and e-commerce medium.
Of course, site blocking orders are not the only tool we need to deploy against overseas websites dedicated to counterfeiting and piracy. I know from my long-standing efforts to combat Internet fraud and child pornography that we must have a range of weapons at our disposal to combat these menaces.
This is especially true when these criminals move their activities offshore, beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. We have achieved a high level of international cooperation in the fight against online child pornography—but even so, some governments will not or cannot effectively stop these crimes. When this is the case, the next best step is to use techniques like site blocking to make U.S. Internet users less accessible to criminals who provide this material.
The same pattern pertains in the fight against online counterfeiting and piracy. We must increase the levels of cooperation with our trading partners. But in today’s world, too many governments turn a blind eye to these criminal enterprises. When we can’t effectively go to the problem’s source, we need to use other tools to deprive criminals of the inputs they need to survive—advertising support, payment processing, and the web traffic that constitutes the online marketplace.
The DNS blocking technique needs to be in that toolkit. It has proven to be a reliable and effective weapon in curbing traffic to Internet sites dedicated to a range of criminal and fraudulent activities. It’s time to take prudent steps to add rogue websites to that list.
Attorney General Jim Hood (Miss.) is a co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Intellectual Property Committee.