April 18, 2024

In DHS Takedown Frenzy, Mozilla Refuses to Delete MafiaaFire Add-On

Not satisfied with seizing domain names, the Department of Homeland Security asked Mozilla to take down the MafiaaFire add-on for Firefox. Mozilla, through its legal counsel Harvey Anderson, refused. Mozilla deserves thanks and credit for a principled stand for its users’ rights.

MafiaaFire is a quick plugin, as its author describes, providing redirection service for a list of domains: “We plan to maintain a list of URLs, and their duplicate sites (for example Demoniod.com and Demoniod.de) and painlessly redirect you to the correct site.” The service provides redundancy, so that domain resolution — especially at a registry in the United States — isn’t a single point of failure between a website and its would-be visitors. After several rounds of ICE seizure of domain names on allegations of copyright infringement — many of which have been questioned as to both procedural validity and effectiveness — redundancy is a sensible precaution for site-owners who are well within the law as well as those pushing its limits.

DHS seemed poised to repeat those procedural errors here. As Mozilla’s Anderson blogged: “Our approach is to comply with valid court orders, warrants, and legal mandates, but in this case there was no such court order.” DHS simply “requested” the takedown with no such procedural back-up. Instead of pulling the add-on, Anderson responded with a set of questions, including:

  1. Have any courts determined that MAFIAAfire.com is unlawful or illegal inany way? If so, on what basis? (Please provide any relevant rulings)
  2. Have any courts determined that the seized domains related to MAFIAAfire.com are unlawful, illegal or liable for infringement in any way? (please provide relevant rulings)
  3. Is Mozilla legally obligated to disable the add-on or is this request based on other reasons? If other reasons, can you please specify.

Unless and until the government can explain its authority for takedown of code, Mozilla is right to resist DHS demands. Mozilla’s hosting of add-ons, and the Firefox browser itself, facilitate speech. They, like they domain name system registries ICE targeted earlier, are sometimes intermediaries necessary to users’ communication. While these private actors do not have First Amendment obligations toward us, their users, we rely on them to assert our rights (and we suffer when some, like Facebook are less vigilant guardians of speech).

As Congress continues to discuss the ill-considered COICA, it should take note of the problems domain takedowns are already causing. Kudos to Mozilla for bringing these latest errors to public attention — and, as Tom Lowenthal suggests in the do-not-track context, standing up for its users.

cross-posted at Legal Tags


  1. … i think ICANN should intervene.

  2. BertBert says

    From the plugins end-user license agreement:
    This is my first foray into add-on development but I really doubt it will start WW3 or skynet 🙂
    It seems to me that most wars have at least some economical motive. It is only a bit far fetched to think that one of these one-man-shows of civil disobedience could become a trigger to start a new one. Featuring on freedom-to-tinker is already more than the author might have expected.

    I like the quote (anyone know the origin?) that the first world war was won with chemistry, the second with physics and that the third world war will be won with mathematics. It seems inevitable to me that in the case of WW3 (or skynet) that a plugin as this will very quickly be supplemented with heavy math through encryption/stenography/deniability.

  3. Another Kevin says

    It seems to me that this can’t end well. The likely outcome is new legislation explicitly giving ICE the power to issue such orders (rubberstamped by a secret court like FISA). I also strongly suspect that Mr. Anderson has joined the level of watch list that amounts to No-Fly (not formally No Fly, but, “we will ensure that the search takes long enough for you to miss your flight, no matter when you arrive at the airport” watch level.)

    Still, kudos to Mozilla and Anderson for not caving immediately.

    • Anonymous says

      Any such legislation would be subjected to a very strong First Amendment challenge as soon as any case went to court over it.

  4. Khürt L Williams says

    It seems corporate lawyers and government agencies are finding ways around the US constitution.