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GoDaddy drops domain hosting for Texas Right to Life's abortion 'whistleblowing' website

"We have informed prolifewhistleblower.com they have 24 hours to move to another provider for violating our terms of service," a spokesperson said.

GoDaddy drops domain hosting for Texas Right to Life's abortion 'whistleblowing' website
Cover Image Source: Pro choice protesters march down Congress Avenue at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

Hosting provider GoDaddy has decided not to host a website set up by the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life to collect anonymous tips about those who supposedly violate the state's new anti-abortion law. According to NPR, the dedicated "whistleblower" website promoted itself as a way to "help enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act" with the promise to "ensure that these lawbreakers are held accountable for their actions." The controversial law makes it illegal for anyone to help women get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — before most women even know they are pregnant — and allows private citizens to sue alleged violators.



 

On Thursday night, officials at GoDaddy gave Texas Right to Life 24 hours to find another provider, stating that it could no longer provide hosting since the group's website violates the company's terms of service. "We have informed prolifewhistleblower.com they have 24 hours to move to another provider for violating our terms of service," a spokesperson told The Verge. GoDaddy explained that the site violated "multiple provisions" of its Terms of Service including Section 5.2, which reads: "You will not collect or harvest (or permit anyone else to collect or harvest) 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 express prior written consent."



 

After GoDaddy booted the website, Epik — the provider that also helped save controversial sites Gab, social media platform Parler, and internet hate forum 8chan when other web service providers wouldn't take them — stepped in to save it. However, despite Epik now being listed as the registrar and name server provider for prolifewhistleblower.com, the website still had plenty of trouble staying online over the weekend. As of 4 a.m. ET Saturday, HTTP 503 error codes were reportedly visible when trying to access it.



 

Ars Technica reported that Texas Right to Life initially tried to use Digital Ocean as a hosting provider only to fall afoul of that provider's rules as well. The site appeared to have migrated to BitMitigate, a webhost owned by Epik which specifically advertises its "sovereign hosting" services for platforms under attack, for a short while on Saturday. By evening, the site was throwing an "accessed a banned URL" error. Epik's general counsel Daniel Prince later revealed that the provider informed Texas Right to Life that hosting the anonymous tip form was against its terms of service.



 

As of Tuesday morning, prolifewhistleblower.com redirects to Texas Right to Life's primary website. Taking credit for this, Epik claimed that it "persuaded them to stop collecting anonymous tips and to take it off the internet entirely." The website had been inundated with fake reports for days even before the web provider scuffle, with some software developers even developing tools to make it easy to flood the tip line with spam. Portland-based computer programmer Jonathan Díaz created an app called Pro-Life Buster to generate fabricated stories that would be submitted at random times to the site. Over 1000 made-up stories were shared by users.



 

"It's no one's business to know about people's abortions, and such a website is absolutely deplorable," Díaz wrote. "This is why we're pushing back." On GitHub, a site where developers share and collaborate on software code, he added: "Hopefully these fake tips help make the system useless." Meanwhile, a representative for Texas Right to Life said in a statement that the group is "not afraid of the mob" and will not be silenced. "Our IT team is already in process of transferring our assets to another provider and we'll have the site restored within 24-48 hours," said spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz.

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