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!)