Yet another domain name registrar has declined to give white supremacist web site The Daily Stormer an easy way back onto the web.
easyDNS has refused to host the site, which has already been binned by GoDaddy after activists pointed out the site had a long history of publishing hate speech and took its rhetoric to new lows with exceptionally vulgar remarks about Heather Heyer, the woman killed when a man Police have identified as James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of anti-racism protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Once GoDaddy binned the site it went registrar-shopping, only for Google and a registrar called Namecheap to also refuse service. Content delivery network (CDN) provider Cloudflare provided its services to the site until the Stormer said it only did so because it sympathised with the Stormer's politics. At that point Cloudflare decided to part ways with the site. The Stormer has tried to move to the dark web.
Cloudflare: We dumped Daily Stormer not because they're Nazis but because they said we love NazisREAD MORE
All of which has sparked quite a lot of debate about whether and to what extent domain name registrars, CDNs and web hots should impose their own interpretations of free speech on customers.
easyDNS waded into that debate last week with a post titled Why does easyDNS provide services to Martian separatists? in which CEO Mark Jeftovic writes that since the game of whack-a-Stormer got under way “Predictably, we’ve had a noticeable uptick in requests from various self-styled activists that we take down some domain or another using our system. The targets of these requests run the entire spectrum of thought, including a well-known political satire website.”
“These individual inquiries are in the form of: 'Why does easyDNS provide services to X, a known terrorist organization', where X is some person, organization or company who represents an ideological outlook at odds with the person asking; and 'terrorist' is often spelled wrong.”
Jeftovic therefore created the idea of “'Martian separatists' to capture the entire realm of possibilities for 'X' because any real world example would probably 'trigger' somebody, somewhere.”
His post explains that “We do a lot of pre-screening here at easyDNS. In the case of existing domains we look at the domain name, pull down a few web pages of the website and do some keyword analysis and apply a ruleset that assists us in deciding if this is a pile of crap we really feel like stepping into or not. If not, we block it from moving here. For example: when the news broke that dailystormer, and then later, stormfront had been booted from their respective registrars, we added strings to our filters to block them from coming here. Who needs that hassle?”
We’ve had a noticeable uptick in requests from various self-styled activists that we take down some domain or another
But Jeftovic also wrote that “The internet achieved its critical mass riding a wave of free exchange of ideas, not the stifling of them. I am still a true believer in free markets, and that philosophies will ultimately succeed or fail on their own merits within the marketplace of ideas. They can’t do that if we’re going to actively censor content and penalize plain vanilla infrastructure suppliers just for providing the scaffolding.”
Those sentiments, he wrote in a subsequent post, saw “DailyStormer founder Andrew Anglin asking if we would allow dailystormer to use our services.”
His response was “In a word, no, thanks for asking.” And his reasons were, again, that he doesn't need the hassle.
“So my line is that I would hypothetically take on a site like Breitbart.com or even TheRebel.media and tell anybody who tried to pressure us to take them down to go to hell. But as a man in an interracial marriage with a mixed-race child, being asked to risk our business and our customers, to put our asses on the line for a bunch of white supremacists? I don’t think so.”
He also makes it plain that his decision was made as a CEO, rather than an individual, because being a CEO has certain responsibilities.
This debate clearly is far from over, but Jeftovic looks like he's willing to play his part. ®