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GoDaddy Boots Racist Website ‘Daily Stormer’

After long public criticism and in the wake of this weekend’s activities in Charlottesville, domain registrar GoDaddy has booted the hate site ‘Daily Stormer.’

GoDaddy, which is the largest internet domain-name seller in the world, announced Sunday evening it will no longer provide service to the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer.

The company, which is based in Scottsdale, has drawn criticism for months for its willingness to provide a domain name for a website ”dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The move comes after The Daily Stormer published an article Sunday using sexist and obscene language to demean Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed when a car driven by an alleged white supremacist mowed down a crowd of people after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Granting that GoDaddy is a private business and that The Daily Stormer is as loathsome a site as one can imagine, the idea that domain registrars should have the right to control what content appears on the Internet strikes me as highly problematic. Ostensibly, this is about violation of terms of service. But, clearly, it’s really about the ideas espoused on the site and the fact that GoDaddy has come under fire for seeming to legitimate said ideas by hosting the domain.

Ostensibly, this is about violation of terms of service. But, clearly, it’s really about the ideas espoused on the site and the fact that GoDaddy has come under fire for seeming to legitimate said ideas by hosting the domain. Once the precedent is established, it would seem that any site that can generate enough public hostility would similarly be in danger, in that registrars who don’t pull permissions would be deemed de facto supporters. And, of course, other registrars are going to be exceedingly reluctant to take on a site that has come under such a campaign and banned by another registrar.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Will be interesting when someone uses it as an example of monitoring content to get GoDaddy’s CDA 230 immunity questioned.

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  2. KM says:

    Actually, a case could be made for libel and defamation and that GoDaddy was reacting to that. The article the Stormer published definitely crosses several lines, many of them potentially litigious. You have the right to an opinion and to publish said opinion but you don’t have the right to libel. I understand the concern with censorship but in this case there wasn’t even the thinnest veneer or legal fig leaf invoked. It was a straight out attack that under established law against a private citizen would be seen as questionable at best.

    Plenty of sites get pulled for illegal activity. If they did indeed commit some legal offense with this article, then there’s no logical reason for them to be treated differently. If they’d kept their mouth shut and just posted general hate, they’d be fine. Their problem is they attacked a specific person deliberately and by doing so opened themselves up to this action under the TOS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Gustopher says:

    Before someone comes with the “But a baker can’t refuse to bake a wedding cake for gays”, I just want to point out that white supremacists are not a protected class.

    As a society, we have agreed that gays who want to get married are objectively better than white supremacists. So, suck it, nazis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  4. Gustopher says:

    I’m not going to worry too much about whether GoDaddy is setting a precedent for silencing speech until we see the Daily Stormer vanish for good, or at least for a few weeks. There are countless other domain registrars who will be happy to take their business.

    This isn’t like Google removing someone from the search results, where that would have a chilling effect on their ability to be heard, this is just where the record that converts hatefilledpeople.org to the IP address of the machines it is on. You don’t need to be with the biggest vendor to get a large impact.

    Donald Trump violates the terms of service on Twitter all the time (threatening nuclear war, for instance). But, there isn’t an equivalent competing service, so it would be silencing his speech to kick him off. Also, a case can be made that there is a compelling interest in allowing the President to speak directly to the people — that twitter alert is going to be our first warning that we need to huddle into our bunkers.

    But, I also question whether, as a society, we have hit the right balance between protecting the rights of people (business owners) to refuse business (freedom of association), and the rights of people to buy food, etc. If you can get an equally nice wedding cake or domain registration with minimal additional effort, I don’t think you’ve actually be harmed.

    That said, it’s harder to find a bakery in a small town, than a domain registrar anywhere on the internet, and I understand that the laws have been written because of abuses in the past, and need to be uniform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. JohnMcC says:

    There is an article up at Vox-dot-com by a person named Aja Romano with more details about this than I could deal with. Apparently a sort-of-hosting-service called Cloudfare is involved and Google turned the Nazis down and nobody knows whether the latter day Goebbels will keep their web presence or not but probably.

    And surely SURELY our host is not claiming that there is a 1st Amendment right to have a website. Surely. Of course not.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @JohnMcC: I’d argue that domain registrars and internet providers are, for all intent and purposes, public utilities at this point. And that, yes, the 1st Amendment protects the right to publish ideas via the Internet.

    If GoDaddy’s argument is that Storm Front is using the domain to incite violence or commit defamation of character, then, no, that speech is not protected. But the idea to spread odious opinions? Sure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’d argue that domain registrars and internet providers are, for all intent and purposes, public utilities at this point.

    You’d argue that, but law and regulation would disagree, and Trump’s FCC is certainly not moving anything in that direction. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    I’d be very happy if there weren’t a U. S. company willing to host these scum of the earth. They can go offshore. I’m sure Trump’s friends in Russia would be more than happy to host them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Mikey says:

    So they moved their registration to Google Domains, where it stayed for not very long before Google booted them too.

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  9. CSK says:

    @KM:

    First Amendment Law holds that you can’t libel the dead, so, sadly, whatever loathsome trash this pack of swine decides to write about the poor woman is legally protected from that standpoint.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: That reminds me–one of the lunatic conspiracy types came out with a crazy theory as to who had actually murdered Martin L. King (of course not whoever it was who was actually convicted) and thought his libelous book (which the idiot had great fun writing, it seems) wouldn’t have any problem because the person he had libeled had died….

    ….oops. Turns out said accused was very much alive and not at all happy at being accused of assassinating M. L. King. IIRC, won a very nice chunk of change from the LCT.

    (Sometimes I think we should just bring back dueling.)

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  11. Matt says:

    If it’s too hard for them to find a registrar willing to work with them they could always go to Icann and pay the fee to become a registrar themselves.

    It’s not hard to setup the web server side of things when you’re a small website like theirs.

    I’m very pro free speech even when that speech is offensive so I have mixed feelings about this. After all when the USA was founded it was considered extremely controversial/outrageous/offensive speech to say that blacks deserved the same freedoms as whites.That said there are options for them but they won’t be super cheap like godaddy.

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  12. Mikey says:

    @Mikey:

    I’m sure Trump’s friends in Russia would be more than happy to host them.

    And here we go…

    Racist Daily Stormer moves to Russian domain after losing .com address

    But they didn’t last long there, either:

    Racist Daily Stormer goes down again as CloudFlare drops support

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  13. Only the Storm Front have to liability in this case the godaddy is outside. Godaddy can’t stop you of what you are going to do in your page.

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