DreamHost shelters this Nazi

After getting the boot from other domain registrars, neo-Nazi Robert Sterkeson has found a home with the company DreamHost.

Hi, and welcome to The Informant, a publication covering hate and extremism in America, written and edited by me, Nick R. Martin.

I’m bringing you a rare Friday edition of The Informant after learning yesterday that a major web hosting company has decided to do business with a neo-Nazi who I’ve reported on before. My goal here is to shine a light on the company’s business practices so that you can decide whether to do business with them in the future.

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His rhetoric is so vile that he’s gotten the boot from multiple social media platforms and at least two domain registrars. But now, neo-Nazi Robert Sterkeson has found shelter in the company DreamHost.

Last week, The Informant brought you the news that Sterkeson had been banned from multiple platforms after he showed up at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally in Arizona and unfurled a swastika flag.

Among those that subsequently took action against him were the web hosting companies GoDaddy and Namecheap, where Sterkeson had registered the domain names bombislam[dot]com and bombisrael[dot]com.

The neo-Nazi was using the domain names to show off a video he made in which he used racist slurs and encouraged viewers to “join a right-wing death squad and kill a bunch of politicians, journalists and judges.”

Now, after several days of downtime, it appears that Sterkeson has managed to find a new company to register his bigoted domain names: DreamHost. Online records show that the California company is now the registrar for both bombislam[dot]com and bombisrael[dot]com.

A reader of The Informant flagged the move on Thursday, and I confirmed it quickly after that.

After I tweeted about it, the company replied, indicating it would allow Sterkeson to remain a customer.

Neither the company’s terms of service nor its acceptable use policy, which were both cited in the tweet, ban hate outright. However, in its acceptable use policy, the company says it draws a line at “using DreamHost's servers or network to conspire to commit or support the commission of illegal activities.”

One would think that encouraging the killing of politicians, journalists and judges might cross that line. But apparently not.

I also reached out to the company by email. Brett Dunst, a spokesperson for DreamHost, sent a reply that included similar language to what was in the tweet. He also included another note:

“While we are unable to comment on any specific sites that may or may not be under investigation, we can confirm that we work regularly with law enforcement regarding sites that contain illegal content,” Dunst wrote.

The business of hosting hate is a complicated and dirty one, as Gizmodo reported last year. Many companies take a hands-off approach to the content they host. But that same Gizmodo report noted that DreamHost has taken action against neo-Nazi customers in the past:

However, in the weeks since we reached out to DreamHost about its relationship with the website of the National Alliance for Reform and Restoration Group, the hate group’s page has been taken offline. The National Alliance for Reform and Restoration Group, among the most extreme and dangerous groups we encountered, has explicitly advocated for genocide against all non-whites in the United States since its founding in 1970. In the years since, several group members have been responsible for over a dozen acts of violence—including failed bombing attempts at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, Washington, and along the highway leading to Walt Disney World.

As I detailed previously, Sterkeson has a long history of harassing Muslims and Jews in real life in the Phoenix area. Sometimes he’ll show up at events to scream slurs at attendees or do things like tear up Qurans. On the same day as the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, he showed up in the lobby of a Jewish conference and unfurled a swastika flag similar to the one he showed off at the Sanders rally.

Sterkeson has owned the domain name bombislam[dot]com since at least 2006, and he has used it to promote hateful propaganda about Muslims and sell T-shirts with his slogan, “Islam is the cancer. Nukes are the answer.”

He’s also been kicked off of most major social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, as well as “alt” platforms like Gab and Minds, which are normally more tolerant of neo-Nazis.

Sterkeson’s removal from Gab came in the wake of the October 2018 massacre in Pittsburgh. An archive of the shooter’s Gab account shows that the shooter reposted a message from Sterkeson a day before the killings.

I’ll update you if DreamHost decides to change course.

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