William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

Shopping reasonably-priced web hosts for free speech

Update, 1:45pm Monday: I'm back! With Crosswinds, still. It was a spam-related issue - not spam I was generating, but spam coming through my catch-all e-mail account on willmatheson.com. I get lots and lots of RandomName@willmatheson.com automated spam - I hardly ever *see* it, but it does load up my Gmail and I guess Google was like 'eff this'. Crosswinds has disabled the catch-all e-mail for all of their accounts and going forward I'll have to manually set up aliases. Oh, well. This sort of problem would probably follow me wherever I go, so no more catch-all, I guess.

If I'd read their updates, I probably would have figured out that my e-mail was part of this e-mail problem. Mine was "was one of the biggest and the one that came up in [the] investigation."

So, again, my suspension had nothing to do with free speech, unless you count spam from the shysters of the internet as free speech, and I'm continuing on with these same people because shit happens sometimes. But this information might still be useful to you.

* * *

Web hosting providers leave themselves a lot of discretion in what they will allow to be hosted. I would like to see more with an ethic like, "We're hosted in Jurisdiction X, so it has to be legal in Jurisdiction X, and follow in good faith the 'first, do no harm' principle, though we may disagree on what's harmful. Provided you're not using our services to run a baby meat distribution network, we will attempt to notify you about any infractions and give you an opportunity to bring your site back into compliance."

On or before Friday, I appear to have been suspended by my web host Crosswinds. I've been searching hither and yon to find other stories of people having been suspended by them, and I did find this story about their having yanked the site of someone critical of the censorship on GeoCities, but I haven't seen anything else. If you have any stories to share, please post them here.

Around, I think, 2:15 ET on Friday afternoon, I sent an e-mail asking what was up, but I've yet to receive any kind of response, and all visits to my website result in this lovely orange picture. I've been locked out of my FTP and web-based control panel, too. But my e-mail still works.


I'm hopeful that there'll be some kind of response today. I have a backup of my static material, but I would like to run one last backup of my WordPress blog because I haven't done one since June 9. It won't be a complete disaster - I was composing things in Word, generally, but it'll be annoying to manually bring it back to where it is now.

I'm dread-assuming this is about free speech - I'd 'love' to be proven wrong, that it's about usage or something, since quantitative problems are usually easier to solve than political ones.

Either way, I may need to find another web host. Here is my current short list:

NearlyFreeSpeech.NET - They take free speech very seriously and have a prepaid pay-as-you-go payment model. You could run a simple static text-and-client-side-script site for pennies. My site is is rather data-heavy though, with tons of photos and video files, which would result in a much higher price than what I pay now. I really like the simplicity - the content has to be yours, the content has to be legal in the US, and that's it. They may, though, donate to a charity working for the opposite of what you want, if they find what you want offensive.

1984 Hosting Company - Based in Iceland, which the people there might have a decent shot at making into a haven of freedom of expression. I really like their self-description, but their terms are tragically much less strident. They can suppress "any materials or information that are, in the opinion of 1984 ehf., illegal, harmful or ethically objectionable." Not having had a chance to have a few beers with these people, I have no way of knowing what they consider "illegal, harmful or ethically objectionable" - I mean, what if Peter MacKay was working in their policy enforcement department?

Dreamhost - It seems like these guys are free speech defenders in practice as well as principle. They host the American Nazi Party website (I verified this with Who-hosts.com) and, according to this blogger, "refused to take down Prophet Muhammad cartoons even after a denial of service attack was launched against them by Al-Qaeda sympathizers." I figure, if they'll host Nazis, I shouldn't have anything to worry about, right?

(By the way, if you're thinking "How dare he link to the American Nazi Party?", that's exactly why I did. While we're on the subject, here's a Louis Theroux documentary on the subject of white supremacists in the USA. From what I've seen of his work, he engages his subjects - whom he might vastly disagree with! - quite calmly and rationally. A good example, I think.)

CrocWeb - Based in Montreal, which is already a good sign. They allow legal adult content. They're not an "unlimited" host, but I think I'd fit in their 50/500 storage/transfer plan.

HostPapa - Another Canadian web host, this one is committed to using renewable sources of energy. They don't allow hardcore pornography, so I wouldn't recommend using them if you wanted to do much porn at all because "what's hardcore?" is not a discussion I'd want to have if I had any stakes at all in it. (Specifying that it must not involve animals is a nice touch. I like specifics.) Still, some web hosts prohibit swearing for fuck sakes, and this doesn't seem to be one of those. But I might smack into their limits pretty quickly. The price is low, but I might receive in service what I outlay in money.

Definitely not on my list:

Netfirms - Gave to the Thai government IP address and associated e-mails of a commenter who criticized Thailand's lèse majesté laws. It's alleged they provided this data without requesting a court order, subpoena, or warrant from Thai authorities. This host deserves special mention because it's a Canadian host. We can't fall into the trap that a host will stand up for us just because it's in Canada.
Tags: censorship, free speech, web hosting, websites

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