Sept. 4, 2017

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On August 25, 2017, Network Solutions disconnects an extreme site: is it on the platforms to enforce public order?

by Marie-Anne Frison-Roche

The Internet has created an area of freedom, even libertarian space.

The flood of words is sometimes hateful. Never mind. This would be the price of freedom: it corresponds to the project of those who conceived the Internet, the places of expression and creation, even the worst, and the political and legal culture of the United States, a system in which the freedom of expression has constitutional value.

This in particular allows for the development of ideas spreading so-called "neo-Nazi" thinking, as the Stormfront site has been doing for years.

On August 25, 2017, the private company, Network Solutions that hosts the site and provides it with the domain name terminated hosting and deleted the domain name.

The host also banned the web master from rebuilding the site or transferring it in any way.

This case gives rise to a debate on the rise of extremists in the United States on the one hand and the limit of freedom of expression on the other.

What is here to be noted is the power of a web host in the matter.


At first glance, a private company does not have to make the police, let alone morality, and to remove the use of a domain name, that is to "kill" a site. But it must be taken into account that three years had passed and that this site, the basis of future events of KKK, prospered.

The manager who made the decision found it necessary to justify himself, as a Regulatory Authority would have done, giving grounds for a sanction decision, even though he can avail himself of the general conditions of use that are accepted by the entities that create and operate the sites.

Read more below.

He did it in the Wall Street Journal., in these sentences :

"Firing a Nazi customer gets you glowing notes from around the world thanking you for standing up to hate. But a week later, I continue to worry about this power and the potential precedent being set."

"I’d like to fall back on the First Amendment. I’m the son of a journalist. I grew up with discussions around the dinner table on the importance of freedom of speech."

 "But the First Amendment doesn’t compel private companies to let anyone broadcast on their platforms."


It is therefore measured that :

  • The power of a platform manager resembles that of a "second-range regulator" more than that of a contracting party,
  • The host would not be "obliged" to be neutral,
  • In any case, freedom of expression would not be the source of such neutrality of platforms,
  • Hosts and platforms would thus be the "Regulators of hate" on the digital space,
  • If they are the regulators, their decisions would be quasi-judicial in nature: they should therefore be reasoned and capable of being the subject of an appeal ;
  • If hosts and platforms are not neutral, because they are fighting against hate, they must be responsible for the legitimate power they exercise in the digital space they regulate.

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