About Daily Stormer and their search for a domain registrar

Update - Aug. 15.  The site has disappeared. Surprisingly they still have a whois record with Google as the registrar, but DNS lookups fail.  They're gone.

You may have seen some of the news about the Daily Stormer website and their quest for a domain registrar. Yesterday their long-term domain registrar GoDaddy terminated their domain registration and gave them 24 hours to go elsewhere. They registered their domain with Google Domains today, and within a few hours Google announced they were booting them out as well (though currently a whois search indicates that they are still registered through 2020 with Google). 

Interestingly, at the moment their site appears to be in Cloudflare's emaergency "I'm under attack" mode where all connections to the site are checked out at Cloudflare's proxy before being allowed to connect. This probably indicates that they are under a DDOS attack from someone, which under the circumstances is not surprising. 

Let's sort through some of this, since in the age of Trump, fake news, and the general world of controversy we are descending into it's instructive to understand what is going on here. 

Part of setting up a website involves registering a domain name.  There are now many different top level domains, though still by far the most common is .com.  You'll note that this site is actually in .community, which is fairly new and may take a little getting used to. In any case, normally you pay the domain registrar for your yearly ever-rising domain name registration, you get stuffed into the DNS system, and away you go.

In this case, GoDaddy for whatever reason decided that Daily Stormer's behavior had crossed a line and violated their terms and conditions, and GoDaddy gave them 24 hours to go find another registrar.  Which apparently happened this morning at 14:51 Zulu time when they transferred to Google.  For US readers, let's just say "this morning".  Shortly thereafter Google Domains noticed them, and announced that they were cancelling their registration as well.

This brings them an interesting dilemna because under normal circumstances you must wait 60 days after a domain transfer before doing another one.  I somehow expect it's really unlikely that an exception will be made for The Daily Stormer, and in any case I can guarantee you it won't happen today.  The domain is still listed as being registered through 2020 in Whois - I would guess that this is just bureaucratic sluggishness at work.  It's a highly unusual situation in that domain registrars in general very rarely cancel domains for TOS violations. And it's a little odd that GoDaddy suddenly chose to do so yesterday.  The Daily Stormer has been obnoxious, hate-filled, and a call to violence since its inception. Nonetheless, that is where we are, and I would expect that they will disappear some time tomorrow, though of course there is nothing to keep them from trying to register a new domain name and just move on over, at least until the registrars catch on to that.

Another oddity here - the domain is registered by Moonbase  Holdings, with Andrew Anglin's email address (Anglin is the - er - brains behind the site). Most people these days prefer an anonymous registration, where the owner's identity is hidden (generally unless the registrar is forced to release the info under court order). This domain is registered in the clear to me - but we're not going to generate the level of anger that the Daily Stormer site will generate.  I'm more than a little surprised by that. 

Let's be clear though, this is just the domain registration we are talking about, without which your computer has no idea how to look up and access the website. It's not at all clear where this site is actually hosted, since it lives behind a Cloudflare proxy. There's nothing wrong or devious about that,  a large portion of the internet lives behind Cloudflare (including this site - for transparency, my company is a partner with Cloudflare and my hosting company does optimized hosting with Cloudflare proxies).  Cloudflare has for some time been a little controversial because there have been other sites behind Cloudflare that are notorious either for their content, or being spammers, etc. Cloudflare has always maintained that they simply provide a network service and have nothing to do with content or the intentions of their clients.

In any case, it's going to be interesting to see what happens to the site during the next 24 hours. My guess would be that they will disappear, at least for the time being. I cannot say I am disappointed, but it raises a lot of issues on internet neutrality, freedom of the press, and whether you really do have the legal right to be hateful. Stay tuned. 

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August 14, 2017

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