Anyone can offend a hosting provider.

Started by lovtzova, Aug 05, 2022, 05:24 AM

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Anyone can offend a hosting provider. Should a provider be responsible for the content of its customers?

Some hosting provider (hereinafter referred to as the Hosting provider) Makhost was fined in December 2021 for providing services to websites. There, anyone could buy a seemingly harmless product - a plush character from the famous animated series Peppa Pig.

The CEO of Makhost said the following in an interview: "The amount awarded is as if the hosting provider sold these toys and made a profit, but the provider did not receive any income from the toys.

At the same time, the basic law in the field of blocking information FZ N 149 contains exhaustive grounds for blocking, and the procedure for resolving such conflicts is provided only for the owner of the website. But not in relation to the host.

Is it fair to penalize a provider that provides services? Do net neutrality laws have a right to exist in modern Internet realities? Should a Hosting provider be a referee on the fields of various bans? These questions inspired us to write this article.

Our company provides a network service for protection against DDoS attacks. And, unfortunately, we also encountered difficulties due to the actions of the user, albeit of a slightly different nature.

The story begins in December 2021. American cyber analyst Brian Krebs addressed his followers on Twitter with the following words:

After that, a representative of the network of American data centers CoreSite wrote to us, where our traffic filtering node was located. The essence of the appeal is simple - in order to continue working with the data center in Los Angeles, we needed to stop serving domains that were somehow connected with Hamas.

We assume that some third party (customer of the service) used our free service to connect domains, one way or another connected with Hamas.

This person may be both the owner and administrator of the website, or may be a third-party customer. This data is hidden. Moreover, it is impossible to establish a connection between the customer of the service and the specified domain - this would require almost its own intelligence service.

On January 8, 2022, we were stunned by another letter from CoreSite. The American side decided unilaterally to terminate cooperation with us. The partners conditioned the decision on the fact that we led them around the finger and did not stop serving Hamas-related domain names. Only after a couple of days on the net, we discovered the reason for the termination of the contract with CoreSite - a study by Brian Krebs, published on January 5th.

Cyber analyst and conspiracy theorist Mr. Krebs discovered that our user, VanwaTech, a Canadian ISP, was serving the domain names of organizations with, to put it mildly, a controversial reputation.

Among them are the infamous 8chan imageboard and the popular conspiracy theory portal QAnon. Particular attention is focused on 8chan, because, according to Krebs, supporters of Donald Trump discussed there the organization of the defeat of the Capitol, which took place on January 6, 2021. Soon, cooperation with VanwaTech was terminated, as The Guardian journalists told in the article.

Right there, CoreSite helpfully dismantled and folded the company's equipment before our arrival. And despite the fact that the situation unfolded over the New Year holidays, we made it so that our customers did not notice the loss of the filtration unit.

Miracles, as they say, did not end there. The story, which received even more publicity, happened to us along with the scandalous social network By the way, Krebs also wrote about our connection with them, but he had already requested our comment in advance.

Reuters journalists saw our IP address in Parler's A-records, immediately deciding that we were providing hosting services to the social network. Colleagues attributed this to the termination of Parler's cooperation with Amazon hosting, as well as the removal of the social network from the Google and Apple app stores.

We again began to defend the truth before the whole world, but not only before journalists, but also before experts and ordinary readers. It seems that only the deaf have not heard about it. Federal media, specialized YouTube channels, and even Pivovarov's "Edition" - all these means of communication in one way or another identified our company as a defendant in this controversial case. We told the world community that we do not provide Parler hosting services, but only protect the site from DDoS attacks - this is our first priority.

Actually hosting.

Due to the fact that many do not understand how the law works in relation to a Hosting provider, we will try to lift the veil of secrecy. Although, it's not such a secret.

The legal side of the issue. Section 230 - Net Neutrality Cry

Let's start with net neutrality. Its essence is well described by legislators from the United States in the so-called Section 230.

 "Neither the provider nor the user of the interactive computer service shall be deemed to be the publisher or carrier of any information provided by another information content provider."

Simply put, companies that host services on the Internet are not considered the authors of the messages that are hosted on these services. And therefore, Hosting providers should not be held responsible for customer content, even if that content is illegal.

According to experts, the law does not make Hosting providers neutral, on the contrary, Section 230 adapts them to modern Internet realities. Experts believe that the law prompted Hosting providers to build their own relationships with customers and introduce content moderation.

Hosting provider and law

Domestic legislation treats Hosting providers, website owners and legal proceedings on these issues somewhat differently.

Federal Law N 149 "On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection" - this law regulates the rights to search, transfer, distribute, produce and protect information.

Domestic law has determined that a Hosting provider is a person who provides services for the provision of computing power for posting information in an information system that is constantly connected to the Internet. At the same time, the hosting provider was assigned the role of an information intermediary.

The pre-trial procedure for removing content consists in resolving the issue of the legality of use: the owner of the rights asks for the removal of the content posted by the site owner and provides the site owner with evidence of his copyright or other rights.

The website owner, in turn, may object - he could have previously acquired the rights to this object, or the object was in the public domain. For the site owner, there is an interest in posting content - he can profit from using the site, or from providing the site as a platform for users to communicate on the Internet.

Thus, all claims against the provider as a third party are exhausted by the requirements for the restriction of information by decision of the competent court, which carefully checks the grounds for such a claim. It is these decisions that the Hosting provider makes.

On February 3, 2022, a law came into force, according to which social networks must independently identify and block prohibited content.

What about Amazon?

American it-giants turned their backs on Parler. In particular, Amazon stopped providing hosting services for the odious social network. Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon in court to prove the illegality of the actions of the corporation, but the judicial mantle has not yet made a decision.

Harvard Law School lecturer Evelyn Doak expects new conflicts to flare up between websites and Hosting providers over Internet utterances.

She believes that the social network is not the right place for content moderation. Doak also mentioned that Amazon cites 98 controversial content in court documents in the Parler case.

 "It even made me laugh a little," she said in an interview with the American edition of WRVO. "Amazon goes online at all? 98 materials or so is not that much. I mean, has Amazon even seen what's being hosted on Amazon?"

In other words, the expert sees no logic in Amazon's actions, but there is another side to the issue. Can the same Amazon, being a Hosting provider, track everything that happens on customer sites? Monitoring "illegal" customers will take more pairs of hands and salaries than even a giant like Amazon can afford. Not to mention providers serving sites for $10 a month.

What to do if someone comes to you for an explanation?

Not a single provider is immune from such situations. Therefore, we have put together a series of tips that will make life easier for colleagues:

    Be attentive to the messages that come to your official (legal) postal address. These can be abuses, requests, various decisions of the competent authorities, or fake documents that have no basis.

    Carefully filter these requests for their legitimacy. If there are doubts about the authenticity of documents or their sufficiency, or the authority of a person or government agency, provide an appropriate response. If you have a special person for these tasks - fine, if not - storm

    Act on the principle of net neutrality and follow the path of the law of the countries where your company is located;

    Be loyal, don't rush. If a client has received a complaint or a decision from the department, do not rush to turn it off. Have a conversation, find out the causes of the problem and ask for it to be solved in a timely manner;

    Now about the media appeals:

    ● If suddenly you do not have a separate mail for media appeals - start it. Not prevent;

    ● Our PR-service advises not to hide from the media and give detailed and honest comments. If you do not respond to journalists' requests, you simply risk being branded as a scoundrel, not only for them, but also for the public;

    ● Keep a detailed press release of what happened in the form of an official document. Post it on the site if possible. This will help you spend less time on media responses. Depending on the course of history, the document can always be edited;

    ● Analyze every word you said in the info field, because this is a minefield;

    Check out similar situations that your colleagues in the shop have been through. Feel free to ask them what the action plan was, how it was reflected in the media, and what reputational and financial risks these companies incurred as a result of their actions;

    Work out a plan B for working with clients. What if you are unexpectedly asked to vacate a rack in the data center?

Finite la commedia

We believe that judging customer content is not the Hosting provider's task. Here are the reasons:

    The client can provide the Hosting provider with irrelevant data during registration - names, phone numbers and postal addresses;

    Sometimes the direction of customer service changes in real time: a website selling soft toys can be protected, and a month later it already sells аlcohol;

    There is no reason why a Hosting provider should do the work of law enforcement and other competent authorities.

Thus, we analyzed the media, got acquainted with the legal side of the issue, translated several articles and expert interviews in order to give you food for thought.

And it seems to us that our story is not over yet.

Now take our poll and express your opinion on whether a Hosting provider or provider should be a juror in this limitless content space. Let's discuss together!


Of course, I am fiercely against hanging supervisory functions on hosting providers, but everything will come to this.
Approximately as with banks now, which have become branches of the tax police.
Know your client, FATKA, requirements for clients to explain the economic essence of operations before opening an account, periodic snitching in financial monitoring on their own clients ..

And all because it is convenient for officials to shift their work and responsibility to commerce. It is not Tom Bush who does not notice evaders and non-payers in the entrusted territory for a bribe, it is the bank that did not work properly!
He's big, fine him!
Here with hosting providers it will be exactly the same, only not about tax offenses, but about mental crimes. Grandpa Orwell approves.