The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer went dark in August, when web host after web host kicked the website off their servers. The website couldn’t even hold onto the domain dailystormer.wang for more than a day before getting the boot. After trying and failing to rebuild on Russian- and Albanian-owned domains, the Daily Stormer briefly set up on the dark web with a garbled URL. The hate site is back and registered in Iceland, a country notorious for protecting controversial websites. But The Daily Stormer founder’s legal troubles in the U.S. could mean the site going offline again.
For years, web hosts allowed The Daily Stormer to fester on .com domains, despite the website’s explicitly neo-Nazi platform. Domain registrar GoDaddy continued to support The Daily Stormer as recently as July, when it posted a threat to promising to “track down” the families of CNN staffers. At the time GoDaddy’s director of network abuse said the post did not breach the company’s terms of service.
“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,” the administrator, Ben Butler told The Daily Beast after The Daily Stormer made the threat. (The Daily Stormer has also posted the address of a Jewish real estate agent and encouraged readers to “stop by.”)
But The Daily Stormer lost its .com status after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a neo-Nazi killed a counter-protester with his car. GoDaddy, then Google, then the owner of dailystormer.wang kicked the website off their services. Now, after a short stint on the dark web, the white supremacist site is back with a .is domain name.
The domain was registered through the Icelandic company ISNIC, which is none too happy to play host to neo-Nazis.
“What we are doing right now, in this particular situation, is we are writing to the National Police,” ISNIC CEO Jens Pétur Jensen told the Reykjavik Grapevine. “We are asking them if or how we should respond and asking them for guidance.”
Whereas some U.S. companies ousted The Daily Stormer in a matter of hours, the process is more complicated in Iceland, which has a reputation for strong free speech laws. (The country was once the refuge of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whom a former Icelandic interior minister reportedly sheltered against an investigation by U.S. agents.)
ISNIC, the country’s main domain registrar, rarely pulls the plug on a website. In 2014, ISNIC shuttered the ISIS propaganda site Khilafah.is. (IS.IS is already taken by an Icelandic seafood company.) Even then, ISNIC agonized over the decision, the Icelandic news site RUV reported at the time. ISNIC reportedly convened a meeting with employees from the University of Iceland and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Justice, during which they decided to take Khilafah.is offline.
“About half” of the ISNIC employees were unhappy with the decision, Jensen told RUV.
Other Icelandic public figures also took a stand against banning the website. Helfi Gunnarsson, a minister with Iceland’s very real Pirate Party, wrote on Facebook that the ISIS site should remain online, so that people “have the right and opportunity to investigate and discuss openly the ugliest ideas found in human society, especially when we are talking about horror such as the Islamic State.”
The Daily Stormer is also partnering with another Icelandic company. Domain registry information shows the The Daily Stormer registering with OrangeWebsite, an Iceland-based company, which bills itself as “freedom of speech” off-shore web host. OrangeWebsite, which did not return The Daily Beast’s requests for comment, told BBC that it was acting as a proxy host for The Daily Stormer, not hosting it directly.
The Daily Stormer’s legal troubles in the U.S. might be its biggest threat. Jensen told the Reykjavik Grapevine that the site’s founder, white supremacist Andrew Anglin, had made an error in the site registration, and had not provided ISNIC with necessary legal documents. If Anglin doesn’t hand over the documents, The Daily Stormer’s latest incarnation could go offline again.
“He has to provide ISNIC with legal documents of his being,” Jensen said. “This is something all registries can do, but it has nothing to do with the content. It only has to do with the registration itself. If [Anglin] doesn’t reveal himself and prove his being, we will close his access to the domain.”
But Anglin has good reason not to hand over personal information: the white supremacist is currently AWOL in the U.S. while fleeing a lawsuit.
Tanya Gersh, the Jewish real estate agent whose address Anglin posted on The Daily Stormer, has been attempting to sue Anglin for five months over what she describes as his “terror campaign”. Unable to serve Anglin with court papers in person, Gersh’s lawyers published a legal notice in Anglin’s hometown paper last week. Legally, Anglin can be considered served if the notice remains in the paper for six weeks.
By that point, The Daily Stormer might be offline again, Jensen said.
“After two weeks, the domain itself will be moved from the DNS that is hosting it now onto the ISNIC’s parking site,” he said. “It will automatically expire. We wouldn’t be taking the domain from him; we would just not enable him to renew it.”