This is the first of ten posts counting down the top 10 stories on Domain Name Wire in 2017, as ranked by pageviews.
What is the role of a domain name registrar when it comes to the content of a website? The common answer was tested in 2017.
Traditionally, domain name registrars have tried to stay out of the content policing business. They argue that domain names are merely pointers and that content issues should be handled by web hosting companies.
That’s the initial stand that GoDaddy took with DailyStormer.com, a domain name registered at the registrar that pointed to a racist website hosted elsewhere. The registrar continued to be the registrar for the domain name despite frequent criticism.
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That all changed after the White Nationalist rally in Virginia in which a man ran over and killed a counter-protester. Daily Stormer posted a hateful article about the victim. GoDaddy decided enough was enough and said that it was booting the domain name because it violated its policy of not inciting violence.
GoDaddy kicked the problem to another registrar by telling the DailyStormer.com owner that he needed to move his domain elsewhere.
That elsewhere was Google. Why the owner chose Google’s registrar is beyond me.
Google went a big step further than GoDaddy. Instead of telling the domain owner to move, it put the domain in ClientHold status, effectively rendering the domain useless. That’s where it stands today.
The site then moved to some alternative top level domains and even the dark web.
While registrars would like to deflect responsibility to hosts, the mood following the violent Virginia rally made it hard for registrars to ignore. Many free speech groups blasted the registrars for their decisions, and I suspect registrars will reconsider their stances with hindsight when similar cases appear in the future.