March 4, 2014 | By Danny O'Brien

Mexican Protest Site Censored by GoDaddy — with the U.S. Embassy's Help

The Mexican website (mirror here), was set up in the wake of a set of controversial December 1st 2012 protests against the inauguration of the new President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto. For a year, the site served as a source of information, news, discussion and commentary from the point of view of the protestors. As the anniversary of the protests approached, the site grew to include organized campaign against proposed laws to criminalize protest in the country, as well as preparations to document the results of a memorial protest, planned for December 1, 2013.

On December 2nd, 2013, the site disappeared offline. The United States host, GoDaddy, suspended the domain with no prior notice. GoDaddy told its owners that the site was taken down "as part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation." The office in charge of this investigation was listed as "Special Agent Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Embassy, Mexico City." (The contact email pointed to "," implying that this agent was working as part of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement wing, who have been involved in curious domain name takedowns in the past.)

Email received by owners from GoDaddy, showing request came from US embassyEmail received by owners from GoDaddy.

Luis Fernando García, lawyer for the protestors, suspected that the call to bring down the site came from further afield than the U.S. embassy, and is suing several authorities in the Mexican courts to discover exactly which government agency passed on the order to the U.S. Embassy. Their court case, announced today, will continue to pursue the Mexican authorities to find the source of the demand, which the case contends violates Mexico's legal protections for freedom of expression.

If there are many questions to be answered by the Mexican authorities about this act of prior restraint on speech, there are no shortage of queries about the United States' involvement in this takedown. Why did GoDaddy take down content with the excuse of it being part of a legal investigation, when the company did not request or relay any formal judicial documents or an official court order? And why is the U.S. Embassy acting as a relay for an unclear legal process that resulted in censorship within the United States?

We look forward to following the result of the website owners' court case in Mexico, and to the responses of GoDaddy and the United States Embassy in Mexico City to this developing story.

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