In the wake of the Megaupload take down, and the proposition for a myriad of new bills in Congress that would severely curtail freedom on the Internet, the spotlight of U.S. authorities actions on the Internet has perhaps never been as bright as it is today. Enter the story of JotForm.
JotForm is an online application that allows someone to create forms for surveys to collect information – polls or otherwise. It is free for anyone to create a form, though there are priced options available for professional organizations or anyone who winds up having an extremely popular form to fill out and bandwidth becomes a concern. When ruminations about regulating sites that allow for “user-generated content” are discussed, JotForm is one of the countless websites that falls under that banner – they provide the back end, users create the forms on their own.
JotForm has had a problem with nefarious users taking advantage of their form software to collect information from unknowing Internet users – a process commonly referred to as phishing. The company, using filtering, discovered and deleted over 65,000 such forms within the past year – but that was apparently not enough, or not the right ones for the U.S. Secret Service. Apparently a simple order from the Secret Service to the company that controlled JotForm’s domain name, GoDaddy, was enough to remove the business from the internet without so much as a notice to the actual site owner:
Popular site JotForm doesn’t host music or movies or child pornography, all of which have led US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to seize other Internet domain names without advance warning (sometimes making serious mistakes). JotForm also doesn’t create content itself. Instead, it helps customers create online forms that can then be embedded in their websites for easy data collection.
But that didn’t spare the site from having its entire business shuttered without warning yesterday as the site’s domain name was shut down at the request of the US Secret Service. JotForm’s domain name registrar, GoDaddy, redirected the site’s nameservers to NS1.SUSPENDED-FOR.SPAM-AND-ABUSE.COM—and with that, JotForm.com became unreachable and the site’s two million user-created forms all broke.
And it all may have been done without a court order.
When he saw his site was down, JotForm cofounder Aytekin Tank scrambled. He checked in with GoDaddy, which told him that the site had been suspended as part of an ongoing investigation.
“We’re very sorry, but your business can no longer exist.”