Plebeian System, an upstart Web hosting company in Cincinnati, told CNET News.com today that it cut off the Nuremberg Files after its T-1 provider, OneNet Communications, threatened to discontinue Plebeian's service unless it halted access to the controversial site's home: "www.christiangallery.com."
The Nuremberg Files lists contact information for more than 200 doctors and workers from abortion clinics around the country and calls for the "baby butchers" to be "brought to justice." Some of the names were crossed out after doctors were murdered by abortion foes.
"Our upstream provider forced us to take it down. They were getting too much heat and email," Chris Wagner, founder of Plebeian, said today. "It kind of sounds like they were blackmailed into it."
OneNet provides Web services to more than 10,000 clients, including Toyota and Procter & Gamble. The company confirmed that it asked Plebeian to remove the site following complaints about the Nuremberg Files.
"Please take the [christiangallery.com/gorypics.htm] down. If it is not, we will again pursue our options in continuing our services to you," stated an email message sent to Plebeian.
Rodney Sizemore, director of operations for OneNet, said that according to the firm's "acceptable use" policy, illegal or harassing material is not permitted on its network.
"We don't police content, but if somebody brings to our attention content on our network that is clearly illegal or against our public policy we will look into it and take appropriate action," Sizemore said. "We said we could disconnect [Wagner] if he refused to comply with our contract--the site was clearly threatening."
OneNet's public public terms of service agreement doesn't state anything about it prohibiting "threatenting" content. Still, Sizemore contends the language is part of OneNet's agreement with its T-1 clients.
The controversy surrounding the Nuremberg Files stems from a closely watched court decision earlier this month.
A federal civil jury in Portland, Oregon, found anti-abortion activists liable for "threatening" doctors by distributing "wanted" posters that listed abortion providers' names and were mirrored on the Net. Ruling in favor of Planned Parenthood, the jury ordered the defendants--who were members of the American Coalition of Life Activists and Advocates for Life Ministries--to pay more than $100 million in damages to abortion clinics and doctors.
Although the Nuremberg Files' creator, Neal Horsley, was not a defendant in the case, his site was highlighted as a "hit list" and prime example of anti-abortion rhetoric that allegedly incites violence against doctors and clinic workers.
Horsley was not immediately available for comment today, but the home page of "Christiangallery.com" states that "This Web site is down due to circumstances beyond our control."
The Portland ruling pitted privacy- and abortion-rights supporters against their own free-speech camp. And like debates over hate speech, First Amendment advocates have warned that it sets a dangerous precedent when ISPs police Net content and weed out unpopular speech by shutting sites down.
Critics of the site argue, however, that the conflict isn't over free speech but rather the right to privacy.
Hugh Brower of Stamford, Connecticut, has been monitoring the Nuremberg Files, and for good reason--his cousin's name is listed on the site.
Brower's cousin is a pastor at a church attended by an abortion provider in Texas. The abortion provider also is listed. Included in the physician's online profile is the location of the church--and antiabortion protestors have subsequently picketed outside the congregation, Brower said.
"It's an issue of privacy. I, for one, would not want my name and address put on any Web site without my permission because I'm not a public figure," he said. "If this Web site goes up again somewhere else, people are going to complain and ISPs are going to take it down, but that's not going to stop the guy because from the standpoint of the Net, any attempt to censor is basically pointless."
Proposed legislation to prohibit posting personal information on the Net without consent would go further to solve the problem, Brower said.
"I think the U.S. should have data protection laws modeled on what the Europeans have, in that your information can't be collected or sold without your permission," he added.