A prominent Internet rights group has condemned Google and GoDaddy for refusing to manage the domain registration for the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization that defends digital civil liberties, issued a blistering statement on Thursday slamming the domain gatekeepers for using their power to silence speech.
After Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville, The Daily Stormer ran a post mocking her for her physical appearance and using various offensive epithets. This prompted widespread outrage on Twitter, and led GoDaddy to investigate and, ultimately, ban The Daily Stormer for violating its terms of service.
Following this, the neo-Nazi site attempted to register a domain with Google, but that attempt was quickly blocked as well.
Though many around the web were pleased to hear these companies were making an effort to eliminate hate speech from the web, the EFF claims taking such actions sets a dangerous precedent.
“Because Internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world,” the EFF’s post explains.
Though it harshly condemns hate speech of any kind, the EFF’s post goes on to argue that domain suspension is too broad of a weapon to use against hate speech, because it “makes everything hosted [on the domain] difficult or impossible to access,” and has a high likelihood of blocking speech that wasn’t targeted.
The main concern expressed by the EFF is that eliminating websites full of hate speech is a slippery slope.
“We might well face a world where every government and powerful body would see itself as an equal or more legitimate invoker of that power,” the statement reads. “That makes the domain name system unsuitable as a mechanism for taking down specific illegal content as the law sometimes requires, and a perennially attractive central location for nation-states and others to exercise much broader takedown powers.”
Following Google and GoDaddy’s decision to drop The Daily Stormer, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince decided to drop them as a customer, after which the website was soon hit with a DDoS attack. Prince said it made him “deeply uncomfortable” to know he had so much power to limit speech.
“The ability of somebody to single-handedly choose to knock content offline doesn’t align with core ideas of due process or justice,” Prince told Business Insider on Wednesday. “Whether that’s a national government launching attacks or an individual launching attacks.”
The Daily Stormer was briefly hosted on a Russian server, but was kicked off of that as well. Founder Andrew Anglin announced on the Gab social network that the site would take refuge on the dark web.