In a matter of less than two hours after a right-wing blogger was exposed as the named registrant for a domain calling for the death of Julian Assange, the domain registration was hidden behind whois protection. Eventually the domain was deleted altogether. And therein lies a tale of how quickly public pressure can produce change.
It all started yesterday afternoon at 4:23 pm, when Evgeny Morozov tweeted:
killjulianassange.com registered Nov 30, 2010. Has anyone found similar URLs?
Enjoying a challenge, I started searching and tweeted a number of domain names I had found. One of the domain names that showed up was julianassangemustdie.com. To his credit, although both Evgeny and I discovered the domain within a minute of each other, it was he who recognized the name of the registrant as as prominent right-wing blogger whereas I merely tweeted “a woman in Texas.” At 5:42, Evgeny tweeted:
Wow! julianassangemustdie.com is registered to melissaclouthier.com. Clouthier is a blogger for RightWingNews and StopTheACLU
Here’s a screen shot I took of the registration information as it appeared at 5:31 pm when I first looked up the domain:
Evgeny also tweeted that Clouthier was on Twitter as @melissatweets.
From there, things happened pretty quickly. By 6:55 pm, when I checked again, the registrant information was hidden behind DomainsbyProxy. And by this morning, the domain was no longer registered.
So what happened? Did a complaint to GoDaddy result in them cancelling the registration for violation of their Terms of Service concerning hate speech? Did Ms. Clouthier just wish to stop the firestorm on Twitter that had started raging? Some have suggested that there’s no evidence that she was, indeed, the registrant, but if that’s the case, why hasn’t she said so? Absent a statement from her otherwise, I will continue to think that this domain was registered by her.
So… did Ms Clouthier have a change of heart about her speech in light of the Tucson killings this week? She has not issued any statement about her actions or an explanation on Twitter, and her site has been unreachable – whether because of everyone trying to access it or for another reason is unknown to me.
In a way, I hope a change in heart or commitment to a new, more civilized tone is the explanation – that we all look at our speech and ask ourselves whether sometimes our hyperbole, however protected the speech may be, may contribute to a culture of violence.