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article imageOp-Ed: Rights group criticizes revoking services to The Daily Stormer

By Ken Hanly     Aug 19, 2017 in Politics
Electronic Frontier Foundation(EFF) has reacted strongly against the decision by GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudfare to revoke services to the extreme right The Daily Stormer.
The EFF said that the tactics used to silence the Daily Stormer's hate speech could be used against other groups ultimately such as civil rights groups. The EFF wrote in a blog post: "All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with." Matthew Prince the CEO of Cloudfare said in an email that the EFF concerns were justified:"We wholeheartedly agree with the concerns outlined by the EFF. They reflect the same risks we outlined in our blog." However, Cloudfare revoked services to the Daily Stormer. Google said that it revoked the Daily Stormer registration since it violated its terms of reference. There was a concern that the site was inciting violence. The revocation of its registration came after the Stormer had published an offensive article about Heather Heyer who was run over deliberately and killed by a car as she was protesting against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Stormer can now not be found by search engines but is visible to users of the Tor browser through an address on the dark web. The Tor browser allows users to browse anonymously but also hosts sites anonymously as well.
Other technology companies also reacted to events in Charlottesville. Twitter suspended accounts related to The Stormer. Discord, a chat service used by gamers, also shut down several servers that white supremacists were using to communicate. Apple and Paypal disabled services to merchants who glorified white nationalism or racism. Reddit and Facebook banned groups they regarded as dedicated to hate speech.
Prince, whose firm Cloudfare protected Storm Trooper sites from denial of service attacks, criticized his own decision: “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn't be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.” Firms do have that power. EFF agrees that all fair-minded people should stand against hateful speech, violence and aggression. However, they argue that the same tactic now being used to silence neo-Nazis and white supremacists could soon be used against others. For example, there are some who are calling for Black Lives Matter to be characterized as a hate group. What if Trump decides that much of the criticism against him is a form of hate speech? There are a number of countries that make it a crime to be critical of the ruler. The EFF notes that we believe that neither government nor commercial enterprises should decide whose speech should be heard and whose should not.
Daily Stormer moved their domain to Google's domain management service. Google not only refused Daily Stormer as a customer, it also placed daiystormer.com on "Client Hold" which means that the owner of the Daily Stormer not only cannot activate the domain or use it but that also it cannot be moved to another site. Whether this is for a limited time or whether Google has effectively taken over ownership of the domain is not clear. I find it surprising that Google has the power to do this.
EFF defended the right of companies to choose what content they allow on their online platforms. Nevertheless what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudfare did they consider dangerous. Internet intermediaries, the EFF notes, already control much online speech and their acts have far reaching consequences. In this regard, search engines also filter out speech. There is an entire Wikipedia article on Google censorship. The World Socialist Website has accused Google of manipulating search results so that less people are accessing their website..
The Daily Stormer's Russian domain became defunct when Cloudfare withdrew its protection services. CEO Prince said that the last straw came when the team behind the Stormer said that Cloudfare was "one of us". Before this Cloudfare had stuck with the Daily Stormer. Prince said: “I realized there was no way we were going to have that conversation with people calling us Nazis. The Daily Stormer site was bragging on their bulletin boards about how Cloudflare was one of them and that is the opposite of everything we believe. That was the tipping point for me.” Owners of the Stormer tried to set up the Chinese domain www.dailystormer.wang and the Russian www.dailystormer.ru but they were both shut down just hours after being created.
The reaction to Charlottesville has been so strong that even the ACLU is under fire for defending the neo-Nazis right to free speech. ACLU executive director wrote that hateful, bigoted speech must be allowed saying: "Racism and bigotry will not be eradicated if we merely force them underground. Equality and justice will only be achieved if society looks such bigotry squarely in the eyes and renounces it." There was some resentment against the ACLU because it had represented Jason Kessler organizer of Unite the Right when Charlottesville tried to revoke its permit to gather in a downtown Charlottesville park. Kessler's permit was upheld by US District Court Judge Glen Conrad, who noted that the city had left in place permits for counter-protesters to gather near the park.
The censoring of speech means not only that people are being told that they cannot say certain things but also that others cannot hear what they have to say either. Surely any speech which we consider hateful should be heard so that we can argue against it. Censorship of this sort shows a lack of faith in the ability of the people who hear the speech not to be taken in by it. The result of such censorship is to drive groups that peddle such hate speech underground. If gives them further evidence that their ideas are right because the established order does everything in its power to stop those ideas even from being heard. It may even help enlist more people extremely dissatisfied with the status quo.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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