GoDaddy, the online domain registration and hosting service, has finally stopped doing business with the Daily Stormer, telling The Washington Post that the neo-Nazi web site went too far by posting an article that mocked and degraded Heather Heyer, the woman killed during Saturday's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
When I followed up with the company this morning, GoDaddy spokesperson Dan Race told me via e-mail: “Given the Daily Stormer’s article came on the immediate heels of a violent act, we believe this type of article could incite additional violence, which violates our terms of service."
But the Daily Stormer's dance with language that could incite white supremacist violence has been going on for a long time, raising questions about what, specifically, made this Daily Stormer article different than others. The past articles I'm most familiar with trace to December 2016 and January 2017, when the Daily Stormer launched a "troll storm" against the Jews (and perceived Jews) of Whitefish, Montana, as vengeance for actions taken to make the town a less comfortable vacation spot for white nationalist Richard Spencer (who had been spending a lot of time in Whitefish thanks to the generosity of his well-off parents). As I wrote back in January:
At the urging of a website called the Daily Stormer, the trolls were calling Jewish businesses in Whitefish and delivering vile messages, as well as posting negative reviews about those businesses online. "Choke on a shotgun and die," read a message to one person caught in the crossfire, according to the New York Times. The website encouraged its army to visit one of its targets, a Jewish woman who works as a real estate agent, "in person." The site ran photos of her, her child, and a Whitefish rabbi superimposed over an image of a concentration camp decorated with a yellow Nazi Germany-era Star of David identification badge.
"The Jews," a Daily Stormer post read, "are a vicious, evil race of hate-filled psychopaths... So then—let's hit em up."
Tanya Gersh, a Jewish woman in Whitefish who was a main target of the Daily Stormer, sued the site's operator earlier this year, saying his "troll storm" had led directly to a terrifying campaign of harassment against her and her family. As the Post wrote at the time:
One [alleged harasser] created a profile for Gersh on a site called “shesahomewrecker.com,” with a false accusation against her. They sent threatening messages to her husband: “Put your uppity slut wife Tanya back in her cage, you rat-faced k–e. Tell your scamming son to kill himself, too. Day of the rope soon for your entire family.”
What, exactly, is the difference between the Daily Stormer's attacks on Gersh eight months ago and its article over the weekend saying that Heather Heyer had merely died in "a road rage incident" in Charlottesville and was "a fat, childless, 32-year-old slut"?
I told Race, the GoDaddy spokesperson, that his statement seemed to suggest that a violent act (in this case, a murder) has to occur before GoDaddy will consider posts like the Daily Stormer’s to have incitement potential. I asked him: "Is that the case? If not, what, specifically, is the line your company draws? How do you determine what has the potential to incite violence?"
In response, Race e-mailed me the following statement from Ben Butler, director of the Digital Crimes Unit at GoDaddy:
GoDaddy does not condone content that advocates expressions of hate, racism, bigotry. However, we generally do not take action on complaints that would constitute censorship of content and that represents the exercise of freedom of speech and expression on the Internet. While we detest the sentiment of such sites, we support a free and open Internet and, similar to the principles of free speech, that sometimes means allowing such tasteless, ignorant content.
In instances where a site goes beyond the mere exercise of these freedoms, however, and crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in violence against any person, we will take action. In our determination, especially given the tragic events in Charlottesville, Dailystormer.com crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence.
Please know that we take all complaints about content on websites very seriously, and have a team dedicated to investigating each complaint we receive. As has been our position for over a decade, if at any time someone believes a website may be operating in violation of our terms of service, we ask that they visit this page to submit a report.
UPDATE: Searching for a new home, The Daily Stormer jumped over to Google domain hosting—and was promptly kicked out by Google.