Hot on the heels of our “Why does easyDNS provide services to Martian Separatists” post from the other day, wherein we explain why we provide services to organizations some may deem controversial, we were contacted overnight by DailyStormer founder Andrew Anglin asking if we would allow dailystormer to use our services.
In a word, no, thanks for asking.
Given our reputation as “the free speech Registrar” we need to explain ourselves.
It comes down to this: Everybody has the right to free speech and to express their ideals. Nobody is obligated to listen. And nobody is compelled to offer their services to you either.
I’ve stated numerous times in the past that I uphold the right for any business to decide for themselves who they will or will not conduct business with. In the long run I firmly believe an unfettered free market would sort out who is on the right side or the wrong side of history.
That means that you can’t force a bible-thumping fundamentalist baker to make a cake for a gay wedding if he doesn’t want to.
It even means a restaurant should be able to refuse to seat (pick one): black people, white people, males, redheads, left-handed people or introverts. Whatever. They probably won’t stay in business very long, it’s a form of corporate Darwinism.
We’ve booted white supremacist sites before, we’d rather they not come on in the first place. When I read Matt Prince’s soulful exploration over whether he overstepped his bounds when Cloudflare took down dailystormer I thought he had some valid concerns. But at the end of the day he acted completely within his purview as the corporate CEO and not unreasonably so.
Everybody and every organization has their own political biases and boundary lines. Twitter is often accused of leaning left, Facebook is positioning for “Zuck 2020” (wtf) and I am one of those Libertarian nutjobs.
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.
So can you make the same argument for hosting their domain, not just DNS?
Let’s say the baker had been chosen from several 1000’s of bakers on a first come first served basis, to be allowed to set up shop on a prime spot in city center and licensed by the city for serving its resident’s needs. Now if he suddenly decides to refuse to serve all jews, would it be OK?
My understanding was that they were looking for a registrar and possibly a DNS provider. We don’t want them in any case. Anybody who feels strongly about it is free to provide them services.
Your second example is not an apples-to-apples scenario because you have added the element of a government granted pseudo-monopoly. That adds an entirely new dimension to it. We are not the only domain registrar or DNS provider or web host around and we certainly don’t occupy some exalted position that forces the wider populace to deal with us.
Matt Kirkland says
With all due respect. This post doesn’t explain the issue at hand.
You start off by acknowledging your reputation as “the free speech Registrar” and then spend the rest of this article explaining why you hold the right to deny anyone business.
Everyone is already aware that you have the right to deny anyone business, that’s not the issue.
The problem here is that you accept (and possibly encourage) your reputation as “the free speech Registrar”, when that isn’t truly the case.
Most people, including myself, don’t stand for what “The DailyStormer” have to say. But the entire concept of free speech is allowing even those you don’t agree with to speak.
At least acknowledge you aren’t “the free speech Registrar” instead of explaining the rights you hold as a business. Those are rights that we are already aware of.
Matt, we cover a lot of this ground in our post from the other day, which is linked in the very first sentence.
The issue today is very much that we hold the right to refuse business. That actually is the entire issue.
The reputation of being a free speech friendly provider is based on our previous actions and track record. It’s not something we invented out of thin air, and it’s a reputation, not a warranty.
Maybe our decision will impair that reputation. So be it.
It’s easy for you to say “I don’t like what they say, but I wouldn’t refuse them business” when you’re sitting comfortably outside of the blast radius. Here’s an idea: call up your domain registrar and your dns provider and convince them to take these guys on.
Cowards, isn’t it convenient that DNS’s have only now started a mass censorship campaign of anything considered too right wing, this is obviously out of both fear or virtue signalling, and perhaps some lobbying too from (((certain))) groups. Don’t call yourself a free speech platform if you’re not committed to free speech.
We have declined to enter into a business relationship with self-professed white supremacists. We are perfectly within our rights to do so.
As for the larger picture of other white supremacist sites being unplugged, see our footnote to the other post.
Mark Robinson says
While I agree entirely with your positions, the “not forcing a Bible thumper to bake a cake for a gay wedding” is probably a poor example. At least, it is in Canada. Why?
It’s a fact that “Christians” are being discriminated against and it’s increasing. While the “cake bakers” incidents occurred in America, Canada has had its own that have been enforced by our government. Example: A few years ago in Toronto, a printing company owned by a Christian was approached by a gay couple asking them to do some printing for their wedding. The business owner declined and referred them to another company. The gay couple would not take no for an answer and hauled the printing company owner before the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The gay couple won.
There are other incidents happening across Canada.
I have a small business. I state quite clearly in my public policy statement that “I choose whom I will do or not do business with and it is not negotiable.” While that is stated, I know full well that if a gay person were to identify themselves as such and want to hire me to promote their gay cause, if I refused I know that I will end up before the OHRT and will lose. In other words, society, backed by my own tax dollars, is forcing me to do something that is not compatible with my world view.
If we live in a truly “diverse” society, then there must be a level playing field so that business owners can truly choose their customers. I don’t see that changing.
Corporations acting as gatekeepers of speech online is absolutely terrible precedent, you made a horrible decision.
We’re not acting as a gatekeeper at all. They can go someplace else and spew their nonsense. The irony is you’re shedding tears over an organization who would
categorically deny the rights of others based solely on their skin colour that can’t find a place to land. Go figure.
I’m shedding tears over hypocrites like you who spout, “you don’t want registrars policing content” out one side of their mouth while hiding behind right to refuse service arguments when that position is actually put to the test in a meaningful way. You had a chance to take a stand, and you balked, end of.
We’re not policing content. They were never here and we never touched their “content”. It takes two sides to enter into a business relationship and we’re not interested, case closed. I don’t see where you can make a defensible argument that we should in some way be compelled to take anybody on we don’t want to.
Like I said, if it’s such a big deal to you, you do it.
If you’re not policing their “stupid f***ing ‘content'” then why bother refusing them service in the first place? At least pretend you’re afraid of a DDoS like DreamHost, or maybe make a dumb NAP argument like you seem fond of.
Like I said, you’re afraid to stand up for your “values”.
This is the last I’ll say on this, since we’d be going in circles otherwise. At the end of the day, this isn’t even a “free speech” issue.
I have no moral obligation to these people. None. I’ve never taken their money, I’ve never entered into a consensual agreement with them, and yes – one could easily say they violate the NAP, which violates our ToS. And I don’t have to pretend I’m afraid of a DDoS. Our ToS also state we can deny services if you knowingly bring a DDoS here and we know they’d bring a DDoS here. It doesn’t matter. We don’t want them, and nobody can make us take them. Somebody on Reddit made the following comment:
That is probably what the eventual outcome of all this will be. The fact that these sites are being driven underground to the darkweb tells you something right there.
Re: RA’s comment and your reply
“Your second example is not an apples-to-apples scenario because you have added the element of a government granted pseudo-monopoly. That adds an entirely new dimension to it. We are not the only domain registrar or DNS provider or web host around and we certainly don’t occupy some exalted position that forces the wider populace to deal with us.”
I believe it is exactly apples-to-apples because the element of pseudo-monopoly is the exact situation that registrars are in. You can ONLY be a registrar if you’re approved by the registry and ICANN above it. Sure, there are many registrars, but there are many bakers too. I don’t think the fact that the governing authority licencing multiple delegates changes the dynamic. It’s a pseudo-monopoly as you said, not a full monopoly, nor does it have to be. The public is well within its right to expect that ALL officially sanctioned delegates perform their duties neutrally. Registrars occupy a special place in the domain name scheme.
The only way you can get around that is to deny that licenced registrars operating in a regulated industry ought in the public interest to follow the cab-rank rule, which would certainly be an interesting argument to make.
I don’t think this is accurate. There are over thousands of registrars and pretty well anybody can become one (hell, after the drop catching bubble burst you can buy a registrar now for a few thousand bucks). They all set their own acceptable use policies and have their own risk tolerance. Somebody running a website that absolutely nobody wants to touch sounds more likely their problem, not the registrars. Gee, could it possibly be because nobody wants to do business with self-proclaimed fascists spewing utter hatred toward others, including our families and our customers? How unreasonable.
This is the free market, it rewards successful ideas and in one way or another, it penalizes bad ones. If DailyStormer really wants somebody to take them on, they’re going to have to pony up a lot of money to do it (expecting some registrar to take on this risk for a $15 annual domain fee is delusional) and at some price level there will either be a taker, or somebody will enter the field to service the need (providing internet infrastructure to Nazis).
We’re not interested at any price and that is totally our prerogative.
At the end of the day, this is not a “free speech” issue (that’s the most nonsensical aspect of all this, self-proclaimed fascists whining about a lack of freedom), this is more along the lines of “you can’t smoke in my car”.
It may not be “a free speech issue” as you argue, Mark, but it certainly has an impact on your false claim that EasyDNS as “a free speech registrar.” It is not. You have show that, and it doesn’t mean squat that you have a non-white wife and kid and you’re offended. You’re either lying or a hypocrite about your “free speech” values. Pick on.
As I said earlier, the “Free speech registrar” is our reputation, and we earned that reputation through our past deeds and actions. For example, when the U.S. government was actively trying to suppress Wikileaks (2010) and we helped Wikileaks stay online that’s “standing up for free speech”, and that’s what contributes to that kind of a reputation.
If refusing to enter into a business relationship with self-professed Nazis (somehow) damages that reputation, so be it. We also have a reputation for looking after our customers and making sound business decisions.
If you really want to talk hypocrisy, how about this: An organization that dismisses large swaths of society as “sub-human vermin” and whose stated policies are that it is literally always ok to “attack non-whites” somehow feels it is “owed” more than being summarily dismissed with a blanket “fsck you” from civil society at large. Now that’s hypocrisy.
If you really want to make it “free speech”, then I’m exercising mine by saying “no” to a fascist.
No matter how you slice this, you and anybody who honestly thinks we are somehow obligated to allow them on here are categorically wrong across all angles.
In a tolerant, open society which supports a wide range of individual freedoms, there is one thing that must be restricted, and that is intolerance. We (the majority) tolerate the Daily Stormer types only so long as they tolerate the rest of us. Free speech means you can stand on a street corner distributing leaflets, or buy a registrar as one poster said to do so online, but the rest of society must not put up with intolerant attitudes towards anyone.
David Barnett says
This is a case of “free speech” meets “freedom of association”.
If easyDNS is prepared to take a “reputation” hit re facilitating the former in order to exercising the latter. I agree that is their prerogative.
Not having ever visited the website in question, I can’t say whether they incited violence against innocents, or deliberately libelled anyone, but those would be principled reasons for not wanting to associate.
Hi David, while you are correct that this is a “freedom of association” issue, it is not a “freedom of speech” issue at all. We are not the government, we are not throwing these guys in jail for their opinions, that’s what “free speech” is about. We’re a private company making a decision on whether to take on all kinds of risk for the sake of what would be one single extremely disruptive customer. We’ve decided not to and that has nothing to do with their freedom of speech.
David Barnett says
That is why I used the word “facilitation” which is your business. I understand completely that you have made a commercial decision not to take them on as a customer.
No doubt there will be circumstances where EasyDNS will come under pressure from totalitarian ideologues to reject business from, say, libertarians whom they fear; and then you might make a stand to accept the risk.
I see this as also you exercising your right to choose your battles.
Tom Hamel says
Your position is well stated, and I agree with your decision not to host these groups 100%. Free speech is important, but hosting these groups is akin to supporting them. These people are Naxis and the KKK. There are no “fine people” among Naxi’s and racists, despite what the Bigot In Chief claims.
Darrin Nowakowski says
One way to describe integrity is honesty, moral courage and the ability to affect those around you positively. This is absolutely the right decision.
Well you are obviously not for free speech are you..?
I cannot even pronounce your Name .
Take the free speech blurb out of your spiel
I’ll try to dumb it down for you:
Companies are owned by their shareholders.
They answer, ultimately, to their customers.
These DailyStormer shitbags are neither. So the only thing they have the standing to do around here is to go fsck themselves.
“I cannot even pronounce your Name .”
I wouldn’t go around advertising that.
I believe that any business that is operating on a level playing field (i.e. not holding a monopoly on a service type or geographic area, or being given government assistance where other competing businesses have to fend for themselves) should be perfectly entitled to refuse service to whomever it chooses. And personally I would not want to supply assistance in any form to somebody whose mission is to propagate fear and hatred. You absolutely should stand by what you believe to be right. Their right to free speech doesn’t translate to your obligation to provide them with a platform.
I think personally that it’s ALL about free speech. I also think I understand your position: you don’t want your business to be associated with a group whose opinion and reputation are highly unpopular.
The thing is with free speech is that none should be allowed to make arbitrary decision as to who should be able to host a website, whatever the subject of their website is, as long as they don’t break the law, of course. And even then, businesses should not take these decisions themselves, we have the police and judges for that.
Also, in the end, if you think that by rallying with other registrars and saying no to them, that you’re doing a favor to society, well, think of it this way: I prefer that these nuts remain in plain sight so we may keep an eye on them. The more people try to stop them from sharing their tortured views of the world, the more they will move to ever darker, underground places and we will lose track of them. And believe me, they will get their message through, no matter what. If I had a choice, I’d prefer blog posts over bullets.
I say: let them say out loud what they think so we can have a good laugh and move on with our lives.
This is really only a secondary consideration. The main thing is, you take on a customer like this, you’re going to get DDoS-ed, you’re going to get consumer backlash, you’re going to be under unrelenting attack, to the jeopardy of all the other customers (Dreamhost had something like 800,000 websites down hard when DS regged a domain through them that they didn’t even know was there until the DDoS hit), for what, $15/year? of which $10 or so is COGs? It makes absolutely no sense – the risk / reward is totally out of whack.
These guys wherever they are should understand they would have to pay an enormous risk premium to anybody going near them, and that’s a completely different business model from the one we’re in.
Finally, to your point, absent the horrendous risk/reward aspect, if one were to take them on in order to “make a point about free speech”, it would at least have to be for somebody you could take the heat for (i.e. Wikileaks, 2010) not a bunch of self-proclaimed Nazi douchebags. (That’s the part that really kills me – these guys walking around the internet saying people like my wife, my child, some of my employees and customers are sub-human and devoid of basic human rights and then they expect people like me to put my ass on the line, risk my entire business to facilitate their free speech? That’s rich)
Big Belly Bard says
Hah, I was searching for an actual “free speech registrar” to transfer my (non-controversial) domains to in light of what has happened to Gab.ai. I’m also in an interracial marriage and have mixed children, however I still don’t want want the Daily Stormer to be denied service based on their content, so I guess I’ll keep my search going. I mean, follow a principle or don’t. Pick one.
Mark E. Jeftovic says
Well our first principle is to serve our customers, and in this case that’s exactly what we did. The idea that somebody else’s right to free speech somehow compels us to enter into a business relationship against our will is idiotic. You either hold everybody’s rights to be inalienable or you want to violate some in favour of some flawed interpretation of another’s. Pick one.