Go Daddy Shuts Down RateMyCop Watchdog Site

Yesterday, Go Daddy pulled the plug on RateMyCop.com, which has been criticized by law enforcement officials for allegedly putting police officers in danger by listing their names and in some cases badge numbers. Visitors can then add comments and post critiques or praise about specific cops in their area. The website collected its officer data via public information requests, and no personal information is used, nor are undercover agents revealed. Still, law enforcement officials are upset at the exposure. When the site’s owner, Gino Sesto, called Go Daddy, he was first told it was removed due to “suspicious activity,” but then the reason was changed by a supervisor to an exceeded bandwidth cap, which Sesto disputes. Update: Go Daddy responded to our reader’s email and said taking the site offline had nothing to do with censorship.

One Consumerist reader sent Go Daddy the following letter this morning to voice his concerns that the company might be selectively censoring content (which certainly is within Go Daddy’s right, but might turn off some customers):

I am writing to express my concern over Go Daddy’s recent action in taking down the “RateMyCop.com” site hosted for one of your customers. Recent media attention has raised some controversy and your action was to suspend the site and post an “oops” page asking for the site’s owner to contact you.

While I’m not necessarily a fan of “RateMyCop” or its message, the content of this site did not violate any laws, nor did it violate any normal standards of decency. That Go Daddy would censor this site, without warning or consultation to the site’s owner, is deeply troubling to me.

I have been a Go Daddy customer for many years, and recently went through significant steps to transfer the last of my domains from previous registrars/hosts to consolidate under Go Daddy. I am now seriously considering taking my business elsewhere.

My domains are “hobby” websites, which I’m sure makes them very profitable for Go Daddy because I pay for Premium level services but place very little load on your systems, in that traffic is steady but not massive. I pay for this type of hosting so that I have absolute control over the content and presentation of my domains, free from advertising, bias, or other restrictions.

If Go Daddy is going to insist that constitutional protections extending to publications on other media do not apply when published on Go Daddy’s servers, then I’m afraid I will feel the need to publish my speech elsewhere. And I promise to do so in as noisy and spectacular a manner as possible.

I look forward to hearing your response, and furthermore hope that you will reconsider your policies regarding censoring the content of the sites you are paid to publish.

(Thanks to Mike!)

“GoDaddy Silences Police-Watchdog Site RateMyCop.com” [Wired]

RELATED
RateMyCop.com

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. elislider says:

    How is listing names and badge numbers putting anyone at risk? That information SHOULD be in the public domain anyways. If they are enforcing the law, their information should be available. This is just like ratemyprofessor.com except its for the public world. I don’t see the problem, unless people are posting violent comments or threats, but that falls under site policy and would deem censoring or removal.

  2. Bladefist says:

    I was going to buy a virtual server from them (about 40-60bux a month) at the end of this month, I’ll be looking else where now.

  3. johnarlington says:

    This sounds like a great plan… Police officers are public employees and should be open to having their performance judged like any other employee. There are also the obvious 1st amendment issues associated with restricting what one can and can’t say on a website. So long as it isn’t slanderous I don’t see what the issue is.

  4. forgottenpassword says:

    I read about this on reddit last night. The question is whether go-daddy removed the site due to pressure from police union lawyers because of a bunch of pissed off cops/police depts from around the country OR that it actually DID exceede bandwidth (which is definately possible considering the large amount of attention it got a day or so ago).

    From what i have read…. MANY police depts, police unions & cops were outraged at the site. Yet they seem to have no problem with a site called “cops writing cops” in which cops will tattle on other cops who have the “audacity” to give other cops speeding/traffic violation tickets by posting their names & departments they work at.

    Could very well be that go-daddy caved to police pressure … but finding out isnt going to be easy.

  5. B says:

    @elislider: It puts the officers at risk of civil suits.

  6. nequam says:

    @B: If you had a civil suit against an officer, you would know it without having to go to a cop-rating site.

  7. ? graffiksguru says:

    forgottenpassword: what cops writing cops site are you referring too? thats messed up, its alright for a cop to give a ticket to a regular citizen, but not for an off duty cop? why shouldn’t they be held to the same laws as everybody else?

  8. forgottenpassword says:

    @graffiksguru:

    They call it “professional courtesy”

    Hereis the site …
    [www.copswritingcops.com]

  9. Triborough says:

    If they were smart, the RateMyCop.com people would have got hosting outside the US.

  10. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    “Our prediction: A year from now…Good cops, and clean departments, will have come to think of the site as a friend…”
    I would have to agree. The few ratings I looked at were positive, and I would think more people would be inclined to post positive experiences (at least I would hope).
    The only ones who would have anything to fear from this site know who they are, you read about them sporadically as the cops who taser people in the back, etc. etc.

    This is a bad business decision by GoDaddy, as who do you censor next? Perhaps Consumerist should be careful with the TSA posts :)

  11. Aph says:

    @elislider: Hell yes, Ratemyprofessor changed the way I went to school, improved my grades through the fact I wasn’t dropping classes from shitty professors and even gives schools a way to test the waters for hiring.
    Cops being employed is totally different, but it invites a much higher level of public partiicipation which is totally dumb for cops to fear since it really enforces a better relationship and trust if theres a places to go to learn about cops in your area.
    Anyway thank you consumerist for pointing to this site I knew it was only a matter of time before RATEMY________ took off in a big way

  12. Aph says:

    Also: It takes about 4 seconds and a fake email address to register on copswritingcops.com and send them an email through their POST A STORY section

  13. GearheadGeek says:

    @forgottenpassword: Not that every story on copsWritingCops is necessarily accurate (it’s on the web, after all) in general I find the concept of “professional courtesy” between cops to be odious. I see nothing about their important work protecting and serving society that puts them above any other driver. It’s bad enough that some cops ignore traffic laws when they’re ON duty, when they’re driving their personal vehicle they should be held to account in exactly the same way that anyone else would be. It’s rather disgusting to read the whining on that site and see how pissed they are when some cop’s brother is ticketed for running a red light (WAY more serious than speeding on the highway, IMHO) rather than being let off because his brother has a badge.

  14. lemur says:

    GoDaddy used to be my registrar. They pulled some crap like this before against a security site. I told them that their action was unacceptable and that I would switch registrars and that’s what I did as soon as my registration was up for renewal. Basically, GoDaddy will just bend over and obey whatever powerful complainants tell them. It does not matter whether the there’s any legality to it. So they lost my business.

  15. mrbiggsndatx says:

    and this is the same web hosting company that has 1/2 naked women on their commercials? wow, go daddy is a bunch of pussies who are afraid of the PO PO. I say FUCK EM and FUCK THE PIGS TOO!!

  16. mattbrown says:

    I agree with GoDaddy. The thing Police Officers need less of is accountability.

  17. @mrbiggsndatx: I say FUCK EM and FUCK THE PIGS TOO!!
    I’m glad to see we’re keeping things classy, asshole.

  18. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @mattbrown: Yeah, they shouldn’t be responsible for their own actions. Hell, it’s not like they’re adults, or worse – public servants expected to ensure public safety. Jeez, why can’t people just be happy that they go around tazering innocent unarmed civilians to boost their egos?

    /sarcasm

  19. chstwnd says:

    site is back up now, but I saw rumors that it was rehosted elsewhere. this is the first time I’ve seen it, and my guess is that it will take a while for the site to be useful to the public (in being wary of interaction with certain cops) and will take some refinement to keep jerks from posting “I hate that f***ing cop!” (I saw one of those in my brief visit) which is totally useless for public knowledge.

  20. CharlieSeattle says:

    @forgottenpassword: Ya but I can go look at Seattle PD’s salaries online from the City of Seattle’s own website so I don’t get how this is private.

  21. yourbffjill says:

    @GearheadGeek: on the front page they argue that they don’t see themselves as being “above any other driver” but that they are treated more harshly, since regular citizens get warnings.

    F THAT. Because I have been stopped for speeding three times, and only one of them did I feel I really deserved a ticket. (The first one was BS. 7 over with the flow of traffic, though they told me it “could have been as much as 15 over” after an admitted “break in the radar”, and did indeed mark the ticket as 15 over). All three times I have had out of state license plates, and of course, have paid the ticket rather than bothering to make a trip back for court.

    And yet my fiance, whose dad used to be a cop, has been pulled over more than 10 times in his life and has never received a ticket.

    Waaa waaaa.

  22. nardo218 says:

    Names and badge numbers? Hell no. Everyone is entitled to an impartial, fair trail. Posting personally identified gossip on the internet is impinging on our constitutional rights by infringing in the process of the law.

    If I was involved in a legal situation, I would NOT want every asshole on the internet to be able to weigh in with their half-baked opinion about the cops involved. Who knows how that can affect the trial? That’s what I pay my lawyer for to do correctly and legally.

  23. sam1am says:

    Don’t get me wrong – I love the idea. But a five minute conversation with the average recently-ticketed motorist would seem to show that their judgement on what makes a “good cop” is not to be trusted.

    I also don’t see the point since it’s not like you can choose which cop pulls you over. At least on ratemyprofessor you can drop/add classes according to the information there.

  24. redkamel says:

    yeah I could write a few choice words about a cop that I found out blatantly lied to me before the police painted the parking line so I would have no recourse

  25. cuiusquemodi says:

    @B: If they’ve nothing to hid, what are they worried about?

    Public information doesn’t lead to civil lawsuits. Tortuous actions do.

  26. TechnoDestructo says:

    I only heard about 30 seconds of it, but it looks like Bill O’Reilly decided to weigh in on this…on the “police are morally infallible” side, of course.

  27. erica.blog says:

    @lemur: yes, I’ve had GoDaddy pull a domain with no notice just because they didn’t want to deal with complaints from non-customers. Lazy jerks lost my business because of that.

  28. @elislider: Correction. That information IS Public Domain.

  29. KJones says:

    Given the incident last year of cops physically threatening and assaulting people who tried to complain or report cops for illegal acts, it’s no surprise that the cops would whine about the site.

    RateMyCop is not advocating violence like anti-abortion sites that list doctor names and put strikethrough tags on those who have been murdered. They’re just making people aware of unethical police.

    Why is that a problem for some people? Suppose teachers abuse students and their union shuts down a website, would you put up with that?

    The biggest problem is that police have stopped thinking of themselves as “boys in blue” and now think of themselves as blue bloods (i.e. royalty, and above the law).

  30. Ayush Saran says:

    Looks like thats NOT the real story

    From the horse’s mouth: The situation was absolutely NOT about censorship in ANY way… Go Daddy’s concerns were about how the RateMyCop site was far exceeding the amount of server usage for which it had contracted.

    This customer paid for a shared server plan. The connections to his site were six times more than an entire ‘shared server’ accommodates. While he was paying for a service that cost $14.99 a month, his site actually required a much more extensive set-up.

    Basically, he was paying for compact car, when he really needed a semi-truck.
    The customer was not willing to work with our staff to resolve the issue.

    While the “censorship” allegations certainly make for an edgy “story,” they simply had nothing to do with this situation.

    Best,
    Elizabeth L. Driscoll
    Vice President, Public Relations
    The Go Daddy Group, Inc.

    That was on Valleywag today

  31. Chris Walters says:

    @Ayush Saran: Uh, yeah, we posted the Go Daddy response last night around 7:19 pm. Check the “update” in the first paragraph above.

  32. dirk1965 says:

    @mattbrown: Why would you say the need less accountability? I’ve observed many officers over the years breaking laws that we as citizens are expected to abide by. Officers are citizens too and should abide by the same laws. Too many officers think they are above the law and therefore need more accountability than we as normal citizens do.

  33. uwouldntlikemewhenimangry says:

    I was in the military for 9 years. I think the police culture is Military-Lite (at least next to the Marine Corps). Many officers are former military and cadet training is similar (if not as intense) as military training. Having said that, I believe training throughout the military and law enforcement emphasizes that members are expected to exceed ethical standards of the general public. The whole “professional courtesy” notion sounds contrived out of selfishness and weakly justified by a vague “band of brothers” concept. Basically, it sounds like a bunch of BS.