In case you haven’t heard, Texas now has a law that makes it illegal for anyone to help women abort after six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest, and take advantage of it, the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life encourages citizens to report these people on a website dedicated to “whistleblowers,” promising to “make sure these violators of the law will be held accountable for their actions.”
On Friday, Texas Right to Life had to find a new home on the web, because hosting provider GoDaddy gave the group 24 hours to find a different place to park their website. “We have reported to prolifewhistleblower.com that they have 24 hours to move to another provider for breaching our terms of service,” a spokesman said The New York Times i The Verge.
By the end of Friday it looked like home: Epik, the provider that also helped save the controversial Gab sites, the Parler social networking platform and the 8chan Internet hate forum when other web service providers weren’t taking them, it is now listed as a registrar and name server provider for prolifewhistleblower.com.
But the site may have gone too far to touch any web provider, even Epik. Initially, GoDaddy said The Verge that the complainant’s site violated “various provisions” of its Terms and Conditions, including section 5.2, which reads:
You will not collect or collect (or allow anyone else to collect or collect) any user content (as defined below) or any non-public or personally identifiable information about another user or any other person or entity without their prior written consent.
After Epik intervened, the website still had a lot of trouble staying online. Starting at 4:00 ET on Saturday, we saw HTTP 503 error codes when trying to access it. In accordance with Ars Technica, the Texas anti-abortion group tried to use Digital Ocean first as a hosting provider, but it may also have fallen under the rules of that provider and is no longer hosting.
On Saturday, the site appeared to have migrated to BitMitigate, a web host owned by Epik itself, which specifically advertises its sovereign hosting services for attacked platforms. However, on Saturday evening, the site was not loading at all, resulting in a “Access to a forbidden URL” error. According to reports, Epik also decided to host the form that allowed citizens to report on their neighbors was also against their terms of service and has cut it once again. We have contacted Epik to confirm this.
The anti-abortion group’s website has been under siege for days, with angry protesters flooding it with false advice, including at least one false claim that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott himself had violated the law, according to the NOW. A TikTok activist even created a script that can automatically feed fake reports into the website’s suggestion box, such as Large plate reported yesterday. He said the NOW that the automated tools he had created had received more than 15,000 clicks.
But on Wednesday, Gizmodo’s Shoshana Wodinsky suggested another way for activists to protest: whistling at Texas Right to Life itself, complaining to GoDaddy about what he was doing. This is what seems to have happened.
It’s not the first time web hosting providers or even GoDaddy have played this role specifically: Gab.com had to find a new home in October 2018 and GoDaddy took Altright.com, the nationalist white Richard Spencer. The neo-Nazi news site, the Daily Stormer, similarly received 24 hours GoDaddy to find a new home in August 2017 and ended up moving to the dark net. Gab was able to return, however, and Texas Right to Life at least did so briefly.
Last update, 16:36 ET: Additional GoDaddy context has been added.
Update on September 4 at 4:00 ET: It was added that Epik appears to be the new home of Texas Right to Life for its site.
Updated on September 5, at 12:18 PM ET: It was added that it now appears that the site is not working, following a report that even Epik was unwilling to host the information form.