Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) spoke out against administration efforts to tear down rogue websites Wednesday, saying foreign governments could see the U.S. domain seizures as a "green light" to tamper with the Web in their countries.
Wyden has panned domain-name seizures before, writing to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to question their policy of taking down websites that sell counterfeit and copyrighted goods.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Wyden said he sees a tension in the government between the aggressive ICE crackdown and the work of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to promote Internet freedom. The State Department funds technology aimed at derailing Web censorship by foreign regimes.
Wyden, who commended Clinton for her efforts and said he has spoken with her on the initiative, said domain-name seizures in the U.S. could be a setback to Clinton's Internet freedom work.
"Hopefully, her views will prevail, and not the views of ICE," he said.
Wyden said foreign governments might look at the domain seizures and say, "We've seen it done in the U.S. We have the green light to do it here in our country."
ICE has seized hundreds of domain names this year with warrants, although not without sometimes accidentally taking down sites that had done nothing wrong, according to reports.
The departments that take down websites say it is essential to follow thieves online, and point to the economic drain of intellectual property theft.