Google Cancels Daily Stormer's Site Registration - Update

By Yoree Koh and Jack Nicas Features Dow Jones Newswires

Google on Monday said it canceled the website-hosting registration for the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, hours after GoDaddy Inc. told the site it needed to find a new host.

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Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said it canceled Daily Stormer's registration because the site violated its policies against inciting violence. A spokesman declined to specify what content on the site violated the policy.

Daily Stormer for years has posted hateful content criticizing Jewish and nonwhite people. On Sunday, the site ridiculed Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed Saturday while protesting a white nationalist rally, kicking off a string of web-service companies trying to sever ties or distance themselves from the site.

Late Sunday evening, GoDaddy said on Twitter it had given Daily Stormer 24 hours to find a new web host. The company said it generally doesn't take action on complaints that would involve censorship of content, but that given the recent events in Charlottesville, the Daily Stormer article violated its terms of service by "promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in violence against any person."

Daily Stormer didn't respond to a request for comment.

Extremist groups increasingly use the internet to spread their message and gather recruits, forcing tech companies to grapple with how to handle such activity, trying to maintain a tricky balance of protecting free speech without hosting hateful content.

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Several hours after Google pulled the website registration, a YouTube spokeswoman said the video site had also terminated Daily Stormer's YouTube channel because of hate-speech violations.

Facebook Inc. said it removes links to Daily Stormer shared on Facebook -- unless the caption clearly condemns the content in the post -- because the site often praises hate crimes. The company said it relies on users to flag the posts to remove them. Facebook said it initially allowed an event listing for the Unite the Right white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., but pulled the listing shortly before the rally when it became clear the event could result in violence.

On Monday, Daily Stormer registered its site with Google via an automated process shortly before 11 a.m. ET. About three hours later, Google said it had canceled the registration, and that it may take up to 48 hours to take effect, adding that it isn't the hosting provider. Without a website registration, a site will appear offline to visitors. To use its web address dailystormer.com, the site will now have to find one of the thousands of accredited companies to register the site.

It isn't clear who now is hosting the Daily Stormer site. Companies whose web services were used by Daily Stormer distanced themselves from the site, particularly as they took heat from social-media users trying to unearth the host.

Toronto-based Tucows Inc. denied ever giving a home to the site. Michael Goldstein, vice president of marketing at Tucows, said Daily Stormer used its so-called contact-privacy service, which blocks a site's domain information to the public.

The site "violated our terms of service and we no longer need to provide that service to that domain," Mr. Goldstein said.

In a tweet, GoDaddy pointed to San Francisco-based content-delivery network Cloudflare Inc. as hosting provider. Cloudflare said it isn't the host, though it appears to provide services that mask the true host's identity, according to Whois.com, which allows users to search for website domain registrations and hosting providers.

"Cloudflare is aware of the concerns that have been raised over some sites that have used our network," the company said in a prepared statement.

Cloudflare said it cooperates with law enforcement but declined to comment on who is hosting the Daily Stormer site, citing company policy. Its website says the company will provide contact information for the hosting provider if an abuse report is found to be legitimate.

The moves by Google and GoDaddy to crack down on the far-right website come in the wake of violent clashes in Virginia between white nationalists and counter-protesters, and they could signal increasing hurdles to maintaining a presence online. The Southern Poverty Law Center called on GoDaddy to pull technical support from two other sites.

The online campaign against Daily Stormer caught fire Sunday evening after Amy Siskind, president of the progressive-activist group New Agenda, pointed out the Daily Stormer article to hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

"People were torn whether we should be giving it the light of day," Ms. Siskind said. But "there's a certain human boundary that was crossed."

She sent a tweet and wrote a Facebook post urging GoDaddy to boot the site, and pushed others to write to the company. GoDaddy's announcement it was severing ties with Daily Stormer came in a reply to a tweet from Ms. Siskind.

Ms. Siskind said she doesn't have a long-term plan to get other extremist websites shut down, but will continue to call for Daily Stormer to be removed from web-hosting services.

--Ben Kesling and Deepa Seetharaman contributed to this article.

Write to Jack Nicas at jack.nicas@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 14, 2017 21:33 ET (01:33 GMT)