Mozilla has refused to obey a request from the US Homeland Security to take down the MafiaaFire Firefox add-on which it hosted on its online add-on repository. The government claimed that the add-on was "circumventing" its domain seizure orders and asked to be taken down.
Mozilla however wanted more than a "request," it demanded a court order before taking any such action. Very surprisingly, such a court order didn't exist and never came. In fact, Mozilla never heard from the government on the matter again.
A few months ago the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office part of the Homeland Security Department started seizing domain names
it accused, or rather media companies accused, of copyright infringement and counterfeiting.
It caused a great fuss, the legality of the matter is doubted by many, but it didn't stop the ICE, in fact it later grabbed even more .com and other domains names which are operated by US companies.
Several developers didn't really like how the US government was policing the web around the world with little legal basis, so they created MafiaaFire a Firefox add-on which simply redirected users trying to visit any of the seized domains to the new homes the website owners had set up.
MafiaaFire is available from its official website as well as from Mozilla Add-ons. The ICE didn't really like the idea of an add-on thwarting its efforts, and asked Mozilla to remove it.
"Recently the US Department of Homeland Security contacted Mozilla and requested that we remove the MafiaaFire add-on," Harvey Andersonm Mozilla General Counsel and Vice President of Business Affairs, wrote
"Our approach is to comply with valid court orders, warrants, and legal mandates, but in this case there was no such court order. Thus, to evaluate Homeland Security’s request, we asked them several questions," he explained.
"To date we’ve received no response from Homeland Security or any court order," he said.
Mozilla's stance is to be admired, but only because few others take it. Though it should be the norm that web companies only take actions against their users, especially when they amount to censorship, when asked through the proper legal channels, it is rarely the case in practice.
But Mozilla went further than just refusing to comply without a court order, it asked the ICE 11 questions that strike at the heart of the whole matter and are really worth a read
. Mozilla inquired not only about the request, whether there was a court order and such, but also about the nature of the original seizures as well.