Don’t Wake GoDaddy
GoDaddy: Neo-Nazi Sites Aren’t 'Morally Offensive'
The web registrar’s terms of service ban ‘morally offensive activity’—but it hosts white-supremacist sites that call on leaders to ‘stop by’ the homes of Jewish citizens.
GoDaddy, the largest domain registrar in the world, has defended its decision to provide a privacy service—designed to shield contact information from the public—to The Daily Stormer, AltRight.com, and several other white-nationalist and neo-Nazi sites, despite warning customers in literal bold type to “not even think about using our service” to partake in “morally offensive activity.”
DailyStormer.com, operated by neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, and AltRight.com, co-edited by white-nationalist Richard Spencer, have published content that could be described as racist or anti-Semitic. Both of these sites registered their domain names with GoDaddy and use an affiliated privacy service called Domains by Proxy.
Domains by Proxy, launched in 2002, is a WHOIS privacy service. It stops the public from using a type of search engine called a WHOIS Lookup to discover the name, address, phone number, email, and other contact information associated with a given domain name. GoDaddy said it provides “much of the support” for the service.
Anyone who purchases a domain name via GoDaddy.com is invited to sign up for “GoDaddy Privacy Protection,” which retails for $7.99 per year. This is another name for Domains by Proxy. The service claims to offer several benefits, including “helps protect against stalkers and harassers.”
Anglin, who has described Jews as a “vicious, evil race of hate-filled psychopaths,” is being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for launching what it claims is a “harassment campaign that has relentlessly terrorized a Jewish woman and her family with anti-Semitic threats and messages.”
On Wednesday, The Daily Stormer promised to “track down” the parents, siblings, spouses, and children of CNN staffers after claiming the network blackmailed a 15-year-old internet troll, who CNN says is actually a middle-aged man. The network also insists it hadn’t spoken to him until after he apologized for anti-Semitic images the troll posted to Reddit’s Donald Trump fan forum r/The_Donald and an anti-CNN GIF he created that was later tweeted by the president.
Ben Butler, GoDaddy’s director of network abuse, told The Daily Beast that this latest Daily Stormer article did not breach Domains by Proxy’s terms. “We do not see a reason to take any action under our terms of service as [the article] does not promote or encourage violence against people. While we detest the sentiment of this site and the article in question, we support First Amendment rights and, similar to the principles of free speech, that sometimes means allowing such tasteless, ignorant content.”
Last December, Anglin posted a phone number and address for Tanya Gersh, a real-estate agent in Whitefish, Montana, and told readers: “Please call her and tell her what you think. And hey—if you’re in the area, maybe you should stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions.”
Anglin wrote the post attacking Gersh following allegations by Sherry Spencer, the mother of Richard Spencer, that Gersh had threatened her with a protest if she did not agree to sell a property she owned in Whitefish. Gersh told The Guardian in April that the older Spencer’s allegations represented “a twisted version of our interactions.”
Anglin, who launched The Daily Stormer in 2013, also posted a phone number and address for the business of Gersh’s husband, instructing his audience: “You can give him a call or stop by his office and let him know what you think of his wife’s behavior, advise him to get a leash on that hoe.” Anglin even published the Twitter handle of Gersh’s 12-year-old son, and described the teenager as “a creepy little faggot” and “scamming little kike.”
None of this has stopped Anglin’s website from using Domains by Proxy, a GoDaddy-affiliated company that warns: “…don’t even think about [emphasis theirs] using our service to… engage in morally offensive activity.”
In emails with The Daily Beast, Butler agreed that these websites “are offensive in nature,” but he also said: “none actively encourage or engage in violence against any person.” The domains for all of these websites are also registered with GoDaddy.
While insisting GoDaddy “does not condone content that suggests, supports, or advocates expressions of hate, racism, bigotry, or other abuse against any individual or group,” Butler admitted that “we generally do not take action on complaints where doing so would result in the censorship of content that represents freedom of speech and expression on the internet.”
When asked about the lawsuit against Anglin, Butler said he had not been aware of it, but stood by his comments. “With more than 17 million customers, we do not have the resources to continually monitor their activity in the courts and elsewhere.” But he added: “If this person is found guilty and a complaint is filed with us… we will review and act accordingly.”
Other customers of Domains by Proxy include TheOccidentalObserver.net, edited by white-nationalist Kevin MacDonald, RedIce.TV, a Swedish-owned website that has described itself as “alt-right media,” ThePoliticalCesspool.org, home of white-nationalist James Edwards’ radio program, and american3rdposition.com, the website of the American Freedom Party, a white-nationalist political party. While all of these sites have registered their domain names with GoDaddy, only The Occidental Observer is hosted by GoDaddy.
According to its customer agreement, Domains by Proxy states it will “take any... action DBP deems necessary” against users who “defame, embarrass, harm, abuse, threaten, or harass third parties,” or engage in activities that are “racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable.”
In spite of this, Domains by Proxy continues to serve AltRight.com, which has conflated Muslims with Islamic terrorists, posting articles such as “Paris Attacks Prove That Muslims Have Adapted a New Terror Strategy for Europe,” peddled a conspiracy theory about deceased Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, and called Southern Baptists “apostates” for asking its members to stop displaying the Confederate flag.
“In instances where GoDaddy hosts a website that... crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in violence against any person, we will take action, up to and including taking down the offending website and/or requesting that the customer move their site to another provider,” Butler said.
He added that GoDaddy operates a service that allows the public to report customers that it thinks violate its policies.