Charlottesville: Neo-Nazi websites shut down in wake of white supremacist clashes

Internet hosting companies including Google pulled the plug on extremist platforms including Daily Stormer and Vanguard America after lobbying campaign

Jeff Farrell
Tuesday 15 August 2017 11:36 BST
Pressure grew on tech firms to stop giving hate a platform after revulsion at far-right demonstrations in Charlottesville over the weekend
Pressure grew on tech firms to stop giving hate a platform after revulsion at far-right demonstrations in Charlottesville over the weekend (Getty)

Numerous neo-Nazi websites have been shut down in the wake of violence triggered by white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville after a campaign that targeted their online hosting companies.

Daily Stormer and Vanguard America were among the platforms shut down for hate speech and links to extremist groups who took part in the clashes, including the Ku Klux Klan.

Tech consultant David Finster led the way in lobbying to pull the plug with a string of tweets to server companies, including WordPress, which provided the platform for the radical voices.

But he kept his foot on the pedal and is still targeting other online domain companies that continue to serve extremist groups – including one website that calls to “destroy Jewish tyranny”.

It comes amid a separate online campaign that has outed white nationalists who gathered in Charlottesville, triggering clashes that saw a woman killed after a car was driven into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters.

Vanguard America staged a neo-Nazi demonstration during the rally where its members and followers wore helmets and held shields with the group’s militant symbol.

The extremist group hosted their website tagged “Blood and Soil” – a common Nazi chant – on WordPress where it espoused its views that the U.S. is “exclusively for White Americans”.

Mr Finster lobbied the server company in the wake of the right-wing march in Charlottesville after pointing out that they were being used as a platform for hate speech.

One message he shared said: “Hey, I thought I would let you know that NAZI'S are being hosted by you. needs to be shut down.”

Mr Finster‏ later tweeted: “It's down.” Users who try to enter the website find a message from Wordpress that reads the site is “no longer available. This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service.”

Twitter users congratulated Mr Finster after WordPress appeared to respond to his lobbying.

Campaign group Sleeping Giants, which targets “racist and sexist” media, tweeted: “Just wanted to say that @david_finster is really showing us something today. Well done.”

Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer was also shut down amid the backlash over the rally in Charlottesville after it published a post critical of Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car ploughed into anti-racist protestors demonstrating against right-wing marchers.

The site, which calls itself "The World's Most Genocidal Republican Website," had registered its name with GoDaddy – but the hosting company pulled the group from their servers.

GoDaddy's digital crimes unit chief, Ben Butler, said the company generally supports the free speech right of clients even if that “sometimes means allowing such tasteless, ignorant content,” but that DailyStormer went too far by encouraging violence.

“In our determination, especially given the tragic events in Charlottesville, crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence,” Mr Butler's statement said.

Owners of the right-wing website later moved their online publication to Google –but the internet giant also pulled the plug on the neo Nazi platform for “violating the terms of our service”.

In the wake of the Charlottesville violence Donald Trump came under fire for not forcefully condemning white supremacists. After facing an intense backlash for initially ruing "hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides," Mr Trump later more explicitly assailed the "evil" of racism and "repugnant" groups like the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists.

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