JotForm’s Legal Nightmare Shows Why Government Shouldn’t Legislate the Web

Amidst all the protesting and chaos as the Internet turned around and gave Congress a mighty whack on the nose for trying to pass the awful Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act, one question, well, denial, kept coming up: “C’mon! It’s just taking out a few websites! How bad could it be?”

Look no further than yesterday, when the Secret Service asked GoDaddy to take down JotForm, which supplies and manages over two million online web forms. GoDaddy complied, starting a bureaucratic nightmare.

JotForm first called GoDaddy, who referred them to the Secret Service. When contacted, the Secret Service told JotForm they’d look into the case and get back to them in a couple of days. Repeated calls to maybe get a damn move on did nothing, so JotForm — desperate to not screw its users — migrated everything to as a temporary solution…which apparently troubled the government not at all. In the end, they got their domain back…which they learned when Ars Technica told them, not GoDaddy.

What started all this? We don’t know. JotForm suspects one of its forms was used in a phishing attack, but the Secret Service won’t confirm this. Was there a court order? We don’t know. What are the details of the case? We don’t know.

We do know JotForm has lost a lot of customers, and neither GoDaddy nor the Secret Service seem particularly bothered by their failure to keep a potentially innocent business informed of their plans, or even give them time to find the problem and make good. So, if you were wondering why unilateral website takedowns were a bad thing, now you know.

image via Ben Werdmuller on Flickr