Web hosting services provide users with the ability to host their own websites. They can be small, like the free, advertising-supported services Angelfire or Tripod.com, or they can be bigger operations like Go Daddy that provide more extensive services like business software packages and cloud processing.
Web hosting services are often the receipients of defamation or copyright infringement claims, demanding the immediate takedown of hosted material. Sometimes these takedown requests come from companies angry that a web host is providing access to allegedly copyrighted material or to a speaker’s criticism of their corporate practices. Other takedown requests come from users upset at alleged defamation or what they see as offensive content. Political content can be especially vulnerable with the weight of a big government behind a demand for censorship.
Despite their business relationships with their users, some web hosts may fail to stand up for the speech rights of their customers when they receive legal threats – even though the web hosts may have legal protections to insulate them from liability without removing the material.
Web hosting customers should be aware of their rights both as users, per a site’s terms of service (if they are favorable), and any relevant law (like the Communications Decency Act § 230 or DMCA safe harbors).
Examples of Targeting Web Hosting Services
When a blogger at www.spockosbrain.com criticized one of ABC’s affiliates, the broadcasting company sent a cease and desist letter to the blog’s host, 1 & 1 Internet, which promptly shut down the blog – even though the host had no risk of liability under U.S. law.
Under the European Commission's hate speech code of conduct, major U.S. Internet companies agreed to an expedited process for the removal of supposed hate speech and terrorist activity online. Status: active.