Should Web Hosting Companies Be Responsible for Website Content?

Not every website out there has good intentions – that’s clear. But who should be responsible for extremely troubling content? Recently GoDaddy was called into question for hosting a site that gave a platform to a neo-Nazi site that promoted the rally that turned violent last weekend. The web hosting company kicked them off, and then Google did the same.

But should GoDaddy and Google be held responsible for the content that supported that violence and hate? We asked our writers, “Should web hosting companies be responsible for website content?”

Miguel doesn’t feel they should be held responsible. He prefers “the laissez faire approach to freedom of expression.” He thinks web hosts should be able to host whatever they want that doesn’t harm people.

Web hosting companies “have to maintain the compartmentalization they currently do in the law, lest we fall into territory that leads to the gradual abrogation of the freedom of expression.” He notes he values that right more than the right to not have a racial slur thrown at him. He does approve of GoDaddy’s actions though.

Simon makes a comparison to car-loaning companies, believing they shouldn’t be penalized if someone used one of their vehicles in a robbery. He realizes GoDaddy wants to avoid being branded as “the web host that supports hate speech,” so they shut down that website saying it violated their TOS.

“However, I think the responsibility should be held with the person who used the tools rather than the tools themselves.” He thinks if the hosts are punished, it could hamper users from freedom of creativity, as “all it would take is one bad egg for the entire hosting site to get shut down.”

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Damien sees it a little differently, being the owner of this site. He notes that when someone plagiarizes your content, if the owner doesn’t respond to your notice to take that content down, you can contact the web host and they’ll have to remove if from their server. “So in a way, a web host does have to be responsible for the content posted on their server.”

Ryan admits to not knowing enough about the law to base his views on it with regards to free speech, but feels “websites that actively engage in spouting hateful rhetoric towards groups of people have no place in modern society.” He also points out, “We don’t allow websites that peddle child pornography to be readily accessible to the public, so why should these websites have a legitimate home on the Web?”

I see a lot of different sides on this topic, and I understand everyone’s viewpoint here, but ultimately I see it more like Damien and Ryan. There are so many things that are illegal and not allowed, so why should hate that can and has led to people being injured be allowed? And if not allowed, then a web hosting company should be held responsible if they host something not allowed.

How do you feel about this touchy topic? Do you think this comes down to a freedom of expression? Or do you think such sites have no place in modern society? Should web hosting companies be responsible for website content? Join our debate below in the comments section.

7 comments

  1. I agree with Miguel up to a point. There should be a laissez faire approach to freedom of expression. However, sites should not be taken down just because the management of the hosting company does not agree with the views expressed on a site.

    Ryan says “websites that actively engage in spouting hateful rhetoric towards groups of people have no place in modern society.” Define “hateful”. Today the definition may seem self-evident but what about tomorrow or the day after? Is the politics and mood of the day going to determine what is considered “hateful”? Will all opinions right of center be defined as “hateful”? Will any opinion not shared by the majority be defined as “hateful”?

    Freedom of Expression is like being pregnant, you either have it or you don’t. There is no in-between. In today’s world “I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It” has become “I Disapprove of What You Say, so STFU or else!”

  2. I wish I could say yes they should, but thinking with some common sense changes things. If you drown in a fast moving river that you were swimming in, do you stop the river from flowing. Of course not but you stop the swimming. The websites if they do not actively operate for the web being hosted, they should not be held liable, but they also have an obligation to the public not to host things that can harm children and others.

    It’s hard to take a stand, Our freedoms are being taken away, slowly so we don’t notice it, but at the same time, there is no place for hatred, bullying, violence against our fellow man.

  3. Absolutely not!! No matter what someone puts up on the ‘net, there will be *at least one* person somewhere who doesn’t like it and is offended! So the #&%* what!! It’s not up to the hosting company to play cops. It’s up to them to host any and everyone, and if they somehow find out that someone is harming another, *then* do something about it. Otherwise, grow a damned backbone and some thicker skin and if something offends you, go find a place where you won’t bother anyone with your whining and crying about it!!

    • While practical and sensible, the problem with your suggestion is that if people grow thicker skins and are less offended they will not be able to make money out of suing the alleged offenders. Lawyers are also going to suffer a decline in income. :-)

      United States is in the grip of The Cult of Victimhood. People have the need to feel that they are a victim of something or other.

  4. Let the tech cos pay the price for the damage they allow to occur by putting a platform out there that is not monitored for abuse.

    And make the abusers liable to the tech companies.

    This is the proper solution. The only way the content can be policed is by the companies that flourish financially as a result of allowing content.

    And the way to stem the current problem is by enforcing penalties on the abusers themselves.

    Tech cos simply have to control the placing of content w stronger regiatration requirements and enforce action against actual abusers.

    Policing w penalities. Thats the righr way to tackle this problem including libel problems on yelp.

  5. I don’t understand your question exactly. Why web hosting companies should responsible for website content. Both are different. Web hosting companies only offer hosting services. After that content writer has to write everything for website.

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