Monday, August 14, 2017

Godaddy, then Google take down "Daily Stormer", but is this an open invitation to web vigilantism?

Whether hosting companies should take responsibility for what their customers do has come up as an issue with Backpage and Section 230, but today Godaddy apparently canceled the domain registration of “Daily Stormer” after an activist reported that it had published an article flaming the female who died in the violence in Charlottesville VA Saturday when a car plowed through of counter-demonstrators on a narrow street.  CBS reports here.  
As a further development, the site content was reportedly “seized” by Anonymous.  On Domain Tools right now, the site (“the World’s most genocidal Republican website” – a subtitle that might suggest sarcasm) is shown register by Google, but NBC News reports that the site domain registration was taken down by Google also. There is nowhere to hide in the digital age. 
Godaddy had said that it was giving 24 hour notice to Daily Stormer for violating “terms of service” for apparently encouraging violence by and on others. 
The site has been sued in April by a woman who claimed the site had caused her to be targeted, another CBS story here. That would probably violate the same TOS, but Godaddy would be protected by Section 230.

All of this suggests a strategy to handle issues like Backpage (August 2):  Limit the exposure to provider liability to situations where the service provider knows of a problem (usually from user input) or is in a position to know with reasonable caution (outside of pre-screening – there may be no way to know in advance that a particular prospective user is a “neo-Nazi” or anything else).  That is pretty much how child pornography is handled now: every hosting company includes a ban on c.p. its terms of service or acceptable use policy (AUP).  Sen. Bob Portman (R-OH) who introduced SESTA says that’s how it would work.   There is a chance, however, that this idea can open up hecklers’ vetoes.  In the Godaddy case, the company took action on a complaint from an activist outside of the company and apparently a non-user. 

That all said, most service providers and hosting companies do “voluntarily” take down users who have been found to be trying to cause violence against others.  This is comparable to Twitter’s closing ISIS-terror recruiting accounts. 
One other thing about the left-wing panic over Trump’s “all sides” on Charlottesville (which he “fixed” today).  There are a lot of things that are bad.  Trying to single out one thing as the worst of all is inherently dangerous. 

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