One of the Net's most controversial Web sites has found a new place to call home: one of the Internet's most hated hosts.
Operated by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, Godhatesfags.com is now being hosted by junk emailer Cyber Promotions.
The site, which preaches virulent hatred against homosexuals, has inspired controversy from the moment Network Solutions accepted it as a registered name. While Network Solutions
rejected other inflammatory names such as "nigger.com," it accepted "godhatesfags.com," prompting such groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation to cry foul.
Network Solution's policy was baffling at best, said Loren Javier, the interactive media director for GLAAD.
Cyber Promotions' policy is at least unambiguous. "We don't do censoring," said Cyber Promotions president Sanford Wallace. He said he didn't know his company was hosting that site but that the company doesn't screen sites anyway.
"We don't care about the content of Web pages. We don't draw the
line anywhere. We're just the conduit. We don't support or condone any site that would involve hate."
Wallace added that if the hate were contained in an unsolicited email, he would feel differently. Cyber Promotions screens email because it is unsolicited, but he added that a Web site is different because a person must choose to go there.
Javier said he doesn't like Westboro's page, but he respects Cyber Promotions' position. "We actually respect that policy more than we do [that of] Network Solutions, which is really ambiguous and very hypocritical at times. Network Solutions says it doesn't take a stand. Obviously, it did.
"We strongly believe in the First Amendment right to say what you want to say," he added. "It's Ben Phelps's [the designer of the page] right to say what he feels." Yet "one has to question a company that chooses to amplify someone's hate."
Rev. Fred Phelps, the outspoken leader of Westboro, has dedicated his life to spreading his antihomosexual message anywhere he can get people to listen, including at funerals of gays who die of AIDS. He said finding a home on the Internet has been quite a challenge.
The page has been kicked off several host sites, including pair Networks and NetGate, according to Javier.
Phelps said he finds his plight ironic on the free-speech Internet. "Blazing idiots like the Heaven's Gate people, they're welcome. They're wanted. Let the imagination go wild. But you start saying in simple, unambiguous language that homosexuals are the lowest form of humanity, bottom rung on human depravity, and are headed straight to hell...then all bets are off."
But Phelps said all the trouble his group has had preaching its message on the Net was nothing compared with the trouble he's had on the streets. "We haven't had near as much trouble
preaching this on the Web site as we have picketing these idolatrous parades and funerals. There they'll try to kill you."
The bottom line, however, is that the publicity generated by this fight "helps draw attention to what we're saying," he said. "Whether it's favorable attention or unfavorable attention, it's irrelevant."
Ironically, Wallace--known in some circles as the king of junk mail and, without a doubt, one of the most hated men on the Internet--has said essentially the same thing in a different context. All the negative publicity only helps people become more familiar with who he is and what he does.