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GoDaddy Cowtows to Even Slightest Hint of Pressure

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Oct/22/2008

When the commonwealth of Kentucky announced their intention to seize some 141 online gambling domain names, a number of registrars expressed a desire to fight. Networks Solution even showed up in a Franklin County Circuit Court to speak at a hearing.

But Arizona-based GoDaddy.com, arguably the largest of the domain registrars, was quick to let the state know their intentions.

With glee, attorneys for Kentucky faxed over a notice to industry attorneys just hours before a hearing to determine if those domain names would be relinquished to the state. The notice in question advised that GoDaddy had already turned over certificates for a handful of online poker rooms and casinos including the likes of DoylesRoom.com, UltimateBet.com and CakePoker.com.

This is not the first time we are learning GoDaddy will cave in to even the slightest amount of pressure.

Wired.com recently reported on how GoDaddy silenced a police watchdog website.

A new web service that lets users rate and comment on the uniformed police officers in their community is scrambling to restore service Tuesday, after hosting company GoDaddy unceremonious pulled-the-plug on the site in the wake of outrage from criticism-leery cops.

Visitors to RateMyCop.com on Tuesday were redirected to a GoDaddy page reading, "Oops!!!", which urged the site owner to contact GoDaddy to find out why the company pulled the plug.

RateMyCop founder Gino Sesto says he was given no notice of the suspension. When he called GoDaddy, the company told him that he'd been shut down for "suspicious activity."

When Sesto got a supervisor on the phone, the company changed its story and claimed the site had surpassed its 3 terabyte bandwidth limit, a claim that Sesto says is nonsense. "How can it be overloaded when it only had 80,00 page views today, and 400,000 yesterday?"

Police departments became uneasy about RateMyCop's plans to watch the watchers in January, when the Culver City, California, startup began issuing public information requests for lists of uniformed officers.

Then the site went live on February 28th. It stores the names and, in some cases, badge numbers of over 140,000 cops in as many as 500 police departments, and allows users to post comments about police they've interacted with, and rate them. The site garnered media interest this week as cops around the country complained that they'd be put at risk if their names were on the internet.

And while the arguments presented by law enforcement agencies may be legitimate, the question remains: Since when does a registrant/hosting company play the role of "cop"?

Since undercover officers aren't in the database, and the site has no personal information like home addresses, that fear seems unfounded, Wired‘s Kevin Poulsen pointed out back in March.

A quick glance at RateMyCop.com, which was forced to find a new registrant and hosting company, shows entries such as "89-year-old charged with keeping kids' ball" and "Dallas LEO runs light without flashers".

Sesto says police can post comments as well, and a future version of the site will allow them to authenticate themselves to post rebuttals more prominently. Chief Dyer wants to get legislation passed that would make RateMyCop.com illegal, which, of course, wouldn't pass constitutional muster in any court in America.

But even the slightest hint of legal action seemed to force GoDaddy's hand in this matter.

RateMyCop.com and the handful of online gambling websites are hardly isolated examples of this registrant's heavy hand.

In January of last year, GoDaddy took down entire computer security website -- delisting it from DNS -- to get a single, archived mailing list post off the web, according to Wired.com.

A representative from GoDaddy.com later contacted Wired to say that RateMyCop had exceeded its bandwidth and exercised its right to remove the website based on a broad provision of its terms-of-service that lets it "remove your website temporarily or permanently from its virtual dedicated servers if GoDaddy is the recipient of activities that threaten the stability of its network."

Sesto claims he was never notified by the company of their intentions.

"I am paying GoDaddy.com over $22,000 a year to host my websites," said one individual who operates online gambling related websites but is not an operator who accepts bets on the respective sites. "I will have to now start thinking about a new service."

GoDaddy.com has expressed its intentions of pulling the plug on Internet gambling websites that are deemed "forfeited" during a Franklin County, Kentucky hearing November 17.

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Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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