On Wednesday, the Secret Service seized the JotForm.com domain and left hundreds of thousands of websites with “broken” forms. Although it was the Secret Service that initiated the investigation, it was Go Daddy (JotForm’s domain registrar) that suspended the domain without warning.
JotForm, which provides a WYSIWYG web form creator and hosting for the forms, is a company that provides embeddable forms for approximately 500,000 users worldwide. Since the 500,000 users have created in excess of 2 million user-generated forms, it is not practical for the company to manually review each form prior to publication. After the domain was seized without warning or reason, Aytekin Tank, JotForm’s co-founder, said the following regarding the dangers of holding a company accountable for user-generated content:
“Many people on the comments assumed the content was posted by us. This can happen to any site that allows public to post content. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) may not have passed, but what happened shows that it is already being practiced. All they have to do is to ask Go Daddy to take a site down.”
Although JotForm says it “fully cooperated” with authorities, the Secret Service refused to provide the company with any information related to the investigation or guidance on how they could prevent similar occurrences in the future. Aytekin, who appears relieved that the issue has been corrected, said the following of his frustrations with the lack of communication throughout the process:
“We will probably never find out the reason for the suspension. It has been a very difficult two days for both our users and for us. So, I hope this is the end.”
Even though SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) did not pass, the JotForm seizure is one example of how the government working with a domain registrar/host can shut down a web-based business without due process.
Do you feel that the government and registrar should be able to shut down a website without due process in order to protect consumers or should website owners be given due process?