Google dropped a neo-Nazi site from its domain-registration service like a hot potato

Google immediately banned a neo-nazi website that registered its domain with the company’s web hosting service.
Google immediately banned a neo-nazi website that registered its domain with the company’s web hosting service.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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On Sunday, GoDaddy announced it would no longer house the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that promotes white supremacist and white nationalist views, giving it 24 hours to find a new provider for the domain. By Monday, the Daily Stormer had moved to Google’s domain-registration service, which forced Google to make a decision about whether or not to ban it. It didn’t take long.

According to Bloomberg, Google ended domain support for the site after just three hours, saying the Daily Stormer violated its terms of service.

Before banning the Daily Stormer, GoDaddy had been criticized for months as enabling hate speech.

Ben Butler, GoDaddy’s director of network abuse, told the The Daily Beast in July that a Daily Stormer article claiming the site would track down CNN staffers’ families did not violate GoDaddy’s terms of service because it “does not promote or encourage violence against people.” He said that “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.”

Shortly later, the web service adjusted its service’s user agreement, according to the Daily Beast, to remove language that told customers they could not  “defame, embarrass, harm, abuse, threaten, or harass third parties,” or do anything “racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable.” GoDaddy did not immediately respond for comment on this change.

GoDaddy finally decided to kick the Daily Stormer off of its service after it published an article that smeared Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed at a rally hosted by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday when a man drove his car into a crowd of protestors. The Daily Stormer article called Heyer a “drain on society” and said “Most people are glad that she is dead.”

“Given The Daily Stormer’s latest article comes on the immediate heels of a violent act, we believe this type of article could incite additional violence, which violates our terms of service,” GoDaddy spokesman Dan Race wrote in an email to the Washington Post.

Google’s quick removal of the neo-Nazi site from its web-hosting service comes as it was already facing attacks from the alt-right.

Last week, the company fired James Damore, an engineer who wrote a 10-page memo that argued women are less likely to succeed in technical professions because of biological differences rather than discrimination, among other controversial opinions. Damore wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that it saddens him to see “the company silence open and honest discussion,” and his alt-right supporters planned nationwide protests at Google campuses.

Now the Daily Stormer will need to register its domain with another service, which like GoDaddy and Google will be forced to decide whether to tolerate its articles (because these are private companies, US free speech laws don’t apply). ICANN, the non-profit in charge of overseeing domain registration, has accredited almost 3,000 domain registration services worldwide (including some brands that  have many multiple LLCs).  Before this game of hot potato is over, we might know where all of them stand.