Storms never last, … or do they?

Image result for go daddy logoVarious ISPs have prevented the hate blog “Daily Stormer”, widely described as a “sewer of humanity”, from passing through their routers, or at least slowed it down. I applaud this move, despite the American’s love of free speech. Americans have free press, but as the cynical adage goes: free press belongs to those who own one, even in the United States. Those who own the telecommunications equipment can determine what passes through their routers and what gets blocked. It gives one a sense of optimism that society and businesses can do what the American govermnment can’t legally do, Trump notwithstanding. ISPs and domain registrars are not bound by the constitution, but instead are generally bound by their own terms of service. Hate speech is generally seen as a violation of the terms of service for most internet-based companies. In this case, the hate speech was especially tasteless, involving verbally attacking Heather Heyer, who was the one who died in Charlottesville, Virginia after being rammed by a car driven this past weekend by Alex Fields, member of Vanguard America, a hate group based in Charlottesville.

Daily Stormer had their “.com” domain name removed by their domain registrar, GoDaddy. Google Domains declined to register their domain name as well. They were even denied after they tried to register their domain with a Russian domain registrar, using a “.ru” TLD (top-level domain).

There are a couple of problems. While being denied a TLD is a good move, it is not the same thing as blocking internet traffic. It just makes finding the website slightly more difficult. Neither domain registrars held their content. The content was on off-site servers, where any web pages, videos and images would have been held. Anyone determined enough could access the website through their IP address, and leave it that way, bypassing any need to know the website name.

Second, there is another cynical adage that every prohibition produces its own underground. The Daily Stormer can always migrate to an alternative internet called “the dark web”. When that happens, anyone with a TOR browser can visit the website. And worse, the IP addresses of those participating in the communication will be undetected and undetectable, through a series of masqueraded IPs that can even obscure the country of origin of the people communicating. And actually, Ars Technica reports that Daily Stormer has already registered a “.onion” domain, a URL on the dark web.

For some more depth, see Ars Technica.