An email to DreamHost re Redwatch (I)

First, IFEX, the International Freedom of eXchange reports:

Police shut down neo-fascist website that threatened journalists

Français: Le site néofasciste Redwatch-Pologne appelant l’agression de journalistes fermé par les autorités

Country/Topic: Poland
Date: 10 July 2006
Source: Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Person(s):
Target(s): Internet/website(s)
Type(s) of violation(s):
Urgency: Bulletin

(RSF/IFEX) – On 5 July 2006, police closed the Polish website of Redwatch, an international neo-fascist group based in the United States. The http://www.redwatch.info/sites/redwatch.htm site had posted the names of at least 17 journalists, calling them “traitors to the race” and threatening them with reprisals for their anti-fascist views. The Polish authorities also shut down http://www.bhpoland.org/strona/pl, the website of Blood and Honour, another far-right group.

In response to a Reporters Without Borders letter to the Polish justice minister on 22 May about the danger of attacks against journalists named on the Redwatch-Poland website, public prosecutor Jerzy Zientek wrote on 22 June that the authorities were investigating the case and had carried out arrests.

An anti-fascist activist named on this website was rushed to hospital in a serious condition after being attacked and stabbed on a Warsaw street on 16 May.

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information, contact Annabelle Arki at RSF, 5, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 67, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail: europe[at]rsf[dot]org, Internet: http://www.rsf.org

Secondly, my never-to-be-answered email:

dear dreamhost,

not unexpectedly, redwatch.info has been shut down.

has or will the company be making a public statement inre this matter?

when i first contacted the company inre redwatch, in response, in an email dated 27/05/06, i was informed by one of yr employees, sam, that:

“DreamHost strongly believes in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees its citizens freedom of speech and freedom of the press, among other things (both of which can apply to websites). We made a business decision long ago to value freedom of speech above any potential offense someone might take over the content of a site hosted by us.”

and in a second and final email sam stated:

“We thank you for your opinions, however they are not doing anything illegal. It is not illegal to post personal information on the internet. Implying isn’t illegal and neither is posting personal information. We thank you for your concern regarding this matter. However, we are not taking the site down.”

does this mean that dreamhost now believes that redwatch.info WAS doing something illegal, and NOT innocuously publishing “personal information”, of an unspecific nature, in a completely arbitrary context?

further, what does it mean to state that “implying isn’t illegal”? in other words, what did dreamhost believe redwatch.info was “implying” by its publication of “personal information”? and does dreamhost now consider whatever it was that was being “implied” by redwatch.info THEN [to be] illegal NOW?

what’s changed?

the facts?

or dreamhost’s interpretation of these facts?

thank you for yr time.

sincerely,

andy.

Naturally, I’m yet to receive a response, and most likely won’t. However, since the issue of DreamHost’s cheerful hosting of a neo-Nazi hit list first came to my attention in late May, DreamHost has taken a consistent line which may be summarised as follows:

Redwatch Poland is a perfectly legitimate, lawful project — albeit one which some may find distasteful — which merely provides ‘personal information’ on a range of individuals who happen to have generated the ire of neo-Nazis. If Redwatch Poland is guilty of anything, therefore, it is guilty, at worst, of being potentially ‘offensive’ (to overly-sensitive readers).

This position has been defended not only by DreamHost itself, but also a number of its customers, one ‘rlparker’ in particular; at great length, and probably — to rlparker’s credit — in the most reasonable fashion. Responding to one concerned person’s referencing Californian law on ‘hate crimes’, ‘rlparker’ writes:

While I appreciate your recitation of the California statutes that follow in your post, [neither] California, nor U.S. federal, law attaches criminal liability to a person or corporation as “an associated party to a crime”. There are provisions for… attaching [jeopardy] for “accessories” and “accomplices”, though each of those catagories requires specific intent, and overt action(s) on the part of the accessory or accomplices for the “association” to be criminal. There is also the crime of conspiracy, but that entails an entirely different level of cooperative action exist than mere “association”.

Dreamhost’s “association” with the criminal acts of a customer is much like that of a landlord, who is “associated” with the criminal acts of a tenant by having rented the space where a crime is committed to one who commits a crime – a concept that does not exist in California, or U.S. federal, law, absent the other types of involvement mentioned above.

Perhaps. But what if the landlord in question is made aware of the fact that the leaseholder is using the rental property as a meeting place for members of an illegal association? Further, that members of this criminal association were planning, in conjunction with others, violent assaults upon innocent civilians? Suppose, further, that the criminal association in question is Islamic — rather than, say… oh, I don’t know… neo-Nazi? And that it forms one part of a much larger, international network of terrorist cells; a network with a long history of violent crime?

Would DreamHost be as flippant about its legal and moral responsibilities inre a hypothetical group of Islamic terrorists as it appears to have been in a real case involving actual neo-Nazis?

I kinda doubt it.

I don’t know when DreamHost was first alerted to the possibly illegal — certainly unethical — content of ‘Redwatch Poland’. But the following notice appeared on Indymedia on June 17 (that is, over two weeks prior to Redwatch Poland’s closure):

You have been hereby notified of the illegal activities occuring on your servers. You have been provided sufficient evidence regarding the illegal activities and violations of your terms of service. Refusal or neglect to remove these sites will result in further action which could result in prosecution for knowingly and willingly allowing criminal activities to occur on your server and criminal neglect. From this point on, you will be held responsible for any damage that occurs as a result of your hosting of these sites…

So what DreamHost has to explain is: what took you so long?

rlparker continues:

As I do not speak/read Polish, I cannot comment as to whether or not that statement [essentially, Redwatch Poland is an unlawful site] might be accurate, though I should point out that, irrespective of your opinion, the truth of that statement can only be determined by a court ;-).

Tee hee!

That being the case, the question now becomes: why, in the absence of a court order, did DreamHost close Redwatch Poland?

To be continued…

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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2 Responses to An email to DreamHost re Redwatch (I)

  1. a. says:

    hey

    just saw that dreamhost were (are?) hosting redwatch.info and I am extremely pissed off – I am also a customer of theirs but will not hesitate for a moment to leave if they are indeed still hosting redwatch. You say that redwatch.info was taken down by the cops but i just checked and the website is still there. Does that mean that dreamhost still host it? If so I am 100% willing to take action

    Can you send me your reply by e-mail please

    thanks

    no passaran!

    Antonis

  2. @ndy says:

    g’day a,

    afaik… dreamhost *did* host redwatch poland, but — as of mid-july 2006 — has ceased doing so.

    interestingly, the company has yet to acknowledge its decision to terminate the account, let alone provide an explanation. in fact, the closest the company has come to making a public statement on the matter is on their forum:

    http://discussion.dreamhost.com/showflat.pl?Cat=&Board=forum_offtopic&Number=47086&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=14&part=all&vc=1

    and on one thread on indymedia:

    http://www.indymedia.org/or/2006/05/839847.shtml

    “…We have a long and cooperative relationship with law enforcement. Upon receiving complaints regarding the legality of a given site we investigate it internally, calling upon law enforcement in situations where we feel that it is warranted. The nature of such investigations is such that we are often unable to comment on their status or provide details on what is going on behind the scenes.

    As for this case in particular, I can only say this: We’re aware of the site, and of the concerns and facts surrounding the recent incidents in Poland. If any of you can provide us with additional information that could be of use, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Beyond that, though, I’m afraid that we cannot comment on this matter any further.

    – Jeff @ DreamHost
    – DH Discussion Forum Admin”

    re the closure of the site:

    the story is that a ‘concerned citizen’ contacted polish authorities to complain. they then contacted us authorities — the fbi — requesting their assistance in closing the site down. exactly how this was accomplished i’ve no idea. from the start, dreamhost has responded to its critics by putting up a wall of silence, instead allowing its apologists to make arguments on its behalf. in any case, despite their fervent commitment to ‘free speech’, dreamhost has (apparently) agreed to ‘cease and desist’. (i suspect the fbi may have cautioned them, but who knows?)

    of course, the boneheads behind it have responded by finding a *new* host.

    that explains why it’s back up, and why it continues to spread good cheer.

    — andy.

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