As the internet continues to change I have to ask people what is going to be the public reaction and aftermath if BlackLivesMatter.com is shutdown by it’s internet service provider? It could happen – let’s look at the how and the why.
Who provides services to them?
The BlackLivesMatter website is registered by the domain name registrar GoDaddy, receives content delivery and security services from Cloudflare, and likely has one or more backend web server providers. Typically these servers are leased from a datacenter and some bigger websites colocate their own hardware and just rent the space on a rack. Without these companies the site would be unable to operate.
Verisign manages the .COM Domain Registry; and domain name providers like GoDaddy, Namecheap, Porkbun, etc sell domain names to people and pay Verisign a fee to add that domain name to it’s registry. When a user types in a website into their web browser they first ask a Verisign Server which Nameserver a domain name uses and ask the Nameserver for the IP Address of the web server. At any time this means that Verisign can delete a domain name they don’t like, it means GoDaddy can delete a domain they don’t like as well. Because of how the domain name system works, BlackLivesMatter could take their domain from GoDaddy elsewhere IF they were given an opportunity to transfer away, what happens if Verisign doesn’t like the domain? Verisign manages all .COM Domain Names. If they don’t want to provide services to you anymore you’re out of luck and have no where to go. If this happens your domain name is gone and you have to buy a new one and tell people about it. You could try a .ORG or something and hope for better results. At that point the damage is done.
Then you have intermediary companies like Cloudflare who typically do not host websites but instead make them faster and provide security services (for example, blocking bad bots trying to hack the website or leaving spam comments). Because Cloudflare also provides Nameserver services if Cloudflare were to cancel your account it would take anywhere between 2 hours and a week for the internet to update it’s records of your Nameserver (once you setup a new one). It’s not permanent damage but it will disrupt the operation of your website for a good chunk of time.
Finally you have the datacenter companies. There are lots of them so if one of them doesn’t like you, you can usually switch pretty quickly. For most small websites and blogs an experienced web admin can move them in a few hours, for larger websites and social media platforms the process takes much longer.
What does this mean for an individual website?
At it’s core it means that you are at the mercy of a private company taking your money and allowing you to exist. Website creation and management is complicated and there are lots of points of failure. These companies act as utilities and may need to be regulated as such.
Politics do come into play…
People have differing opinions on what private companies should and should not be allowed to do. Should GoDaddy have to provide services to every website? Maybe we all support BlackLivesMatter but not KillAllTheDucks or something. It does create an issue of whether this is compelled speech by a provider.
Is such a situation likely?
It’s unclear, but under our current legal system it would be permitted and like the issue with Parler and 8Chan, at any time the companies providing services to BlackLivesMatter could change their mind if the movement becomes unpopular. I think it would harm many companies images if they shutdown BlackLivesMatter, then again Chick-Fil-A has had negative press and people still eat there. GoDaddy’s loyal customers probably won’t leave them just because they upset one group of activists.
Federal regulations may be needed…
For decades they tech industry in the United States has been unregulated. Right now there’s a system where unpopular sites that make people angry get shutdown by their hosting providers on a whim. Many of the sites are unlawful or are hate speech and I’d rather them not exist too. But I continue to wonder what happens if opinions change. Currently no one is protected from such a situation. Will we wait until the tables turn and it’s too late or act today. What happens if evil groups get protected too? The law (is supposed to) applies equally so if we protect “good groups” we also protect “bad groups”.
What do you think?
Is the status quo good for now? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Please share this post and discuss. I want to see people have this discussion rather than it be ignored.