Saturday, August 26, 2017
Barricades and construction vehicles were put into place as 17th St. shuts down ahead of planned protest in Fort Sanders on Saturday.Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel
Stormfront, an international supremacist web forum, appears to have been seized by its website host, Network Solutions, LLC.
The forum disappeared Friday. WhoIs, a web service that tracks site ownership, reported the Stormfront domain's status as "under hold."
According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit that coordinates name spaces on the Internet, a hold status is an uncommon status that indicates a site is under legal dispute or about to be deleted.
Network Solutions has also prohibited Stormfront from updating, transferring or deleting its web forum on its own. That means Stormfront's web masters cannot re-introduce the site on another domain.
Should Network Solutions go through with deleting the website itself, any re-emerging version would have to start from scratch.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has claimed responsibility for the site's removal. Executive Director Kristen Clarke said in an email that the nonprofit group has "taken action against Stormfront."
"Their website is a vehicle used to promote racially-motivated violence and hate," Clarke wrote. The Committee said they sent a letter citing a clause in Network Solutions Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits using their domains "to display bigotry, discrimination or hatred.”
Stormfront has been online for about 10 years.
"Following our efforts, Network Solutions has pulled the site," Clarke said. "And while bringing down one site won't terminate their efforts, it will make it a little more difficult for white supremacists to sow hatred."
The site's removal comes less than two weeks after the domain host GoDaddy told the supremacist commentary site The Daily Stormer that it had 24 hours to find a new web host after the site published a post praising the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed at a violent supremacist rally in Charlottseville that the site referred to as "The Battle of Charlottesville." Google pulled its support for the site soon after.
The internet security service CloudFlare also removed its protections from The Daily Stormer. So when the site found a new domain with Dreamhost, the host reportedly fell under a mass Distributed Denial of Service attack, which shut The Daily Stormer down again.
GoDaddy, Google and Cloudflare's decisions to drop services to the Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer sparked a national debate about freedom of speech on the internet.
In an opinion piece to the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Prince, CloudFlare's CEO and co-founder said he was still torn over the decision to remove The Daily Stormer.
"Firing a Nazi customer gets you glowing notes from around the world thanking you for standing up to hate. But a week later, I continue to worry about this power and the potential precedent being set," Prince wrote.
"I’d like to fall back on the First Amendment. I’m the son of a journalist. I grew up with discussions around the dinner table on the importance of freedom of speech," he continued. "But the First Amendment doesn’t compel private companies to let anyone broadcast on their platforms."
The Stormfront forum is also a CloudFlare client. Spokeswoman Daniella Vallurupalli declined comment on the status of its service agreement with the website. "Cloudflare's policy is to not comment on users without their permission," she said.
Don Black, a former Grand Wizard in the Klu Klux Klan and member of the American Nazi Party, launched Stormfront about 10 years ago as an online bulletin board system. The website had amassed more than 300,000 members on at least four continents before its disappearance.
Black began hosting summits for the online community in East Tennessee in 2010. This year, the group was planning its seventh annual "Great Smoky Mountain Summit" at an undisclosed location near Knoxville. Plans for the summit included appearances by Klu Klux Klan attorney Sam Dickson and David Duke, another prominent former KKK leader.
It is unclear if those plans will go on now that the forum has been removed.
The USA Today Network—Tennessee has reached out to Black via email and Twitter to find out if plans for the summit continue. Black's email however, is registered on the same domain as Stormfront, so Black may not be able to access the message.