One of the oldest and largest neo-nazi sites on the internet, the white supremacist chatroom Stormfront, has been thrown off the open web by its hosting provider.
Stormfront has been described by the anti-hate group Southern Poverty Law Center as the “murder capital of the internet”. The group pointed out that “registered Stormfront users have been disproportionately responsible for some of the most lethal hate crimes and mass killings since the site was put up in 1995. In the past five years alone, Stormfront members have murdered close to 100 people.”
As of Tuesday morning, Stormfront.org was unavailable, with the site’s domain registry recording that its hosting provider Network Solutions had issued a “hold” on the address.
Stormfront’s removal comes a week after a letter, informing Network Solution’s parent company Web.com of the neo-nazi site’s infractions of the its usage policy, was sent by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights organisation formed at the request of John F Kennedy in 1963.
The group, which has been writing to Web.com repeatedly since early July, repeated its request of the company to take “immediate action” against Stormfront.
Becky Monroe, the director of the group’s Stop Hate project said: “Since its creation, Stormfront has been consistently recognised as a site for racial hatred … a representative sample of posts on the site refer to interracial couples by slurs, share racist caricatures, or otherwise dehumanises minorities by referring to them as ‘creatures’ or ‘ethnics’.
“It is clear that Stormfront’s reason for existing is to advance hateful racist ideologies in undeniable persistent violation of the acceptable use policy of Web.com.”
The letter closes by giving a deadline of August 28, the same day Stormfront lost its site.
“Especially in the wake of tragic events in Charlottesville and the spike in hate crimes across the country, Stormfront crossed the line of permissible speech and incited and promoted violence,” said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The move follows the downfall of the Daily Stormer, a far-right news site which was dropped by multiple service providers after it published an article smearing the victim of a far-right terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. Eventually, the site was forced to move to the so-called dark web due to the lack of companies willing to work with it publicly.
As with the withdrawal of the Daily Stormer’s domain by GoDaddy, the decision of Web.com to pull its support for Stormfront will likely prompt a game of cat and mouse for the site, as it attempts to re-register its domain name with new registrars, many of whom will also choose to refuse to serve the forum.
Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader who has operated stormfront.org since 1995 said that he was seeking counsel and that: “I can switch to another domain, but it might wind up the same way.”
It will also prompt a new round of debate over just how critical private companies are to free speech on the internet – even when the free speech is on the part of white supremacists and neo-nazis.
“This is a really terrible time to be a free speech advocate,” Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told the Guardian on Monday.
Web.com did not reply to a request for comment.