Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen released the following statement today after a website from the white supremacist group Feuerkrieg Division (FKD) was taken offline by website management and blogging platform WordPress. The removal comes on the heels of a CEP report and letter addressed to WordPress that found FKD had been using a WordPress-hosted website for recruitment and propaganda purposes. FKD acknowledged CEP’s role in provoking WordPress action on its Gab account.
“WordPress took appropriate action in this instance by removing Feuerkrieg Division’s website. It is unfortunate though that WordPress still relies on the research and action of third party organizations, such as CEP, to flag extremist content for them, instead of proactively identifying such content itself.
“CEP has a long history of interaction with WordPress. Our previous attempts to convince them to remove clear extremist materials from their servers – content glorifying violence and calls for radical, horrifying terrorist executions – have previously been met with inaction or misleading justifications of free speech.
“Companies such as WordPress and the tech industry as a whole make billions in revenue every year. And with that revenue comes a serious responsibility to protect its users, clients, and customers – including by ensuring the timely removal of extremist content from their platforms. Put simply, their inaction endangers lives. It should not take a public outcry or scandal to get them to consistently enforce their own terms of service, which already forbids extremist content,” concluded Ibsen.
On Monday, February 11, CEP publicized a report detailing FKD’s online presence on WordPress, YouTube, Twitter and other websites. The organization has been known to advocate for racial and anti-Semitic violence. At the time, CEP noted that new groups such as FKD needed to be taken offline before their hateful rhetoric online turned into real world activism. Four days after CEP published the report, the website was taken down by WordPress. On FKD’s Gab profile, the neo-Nazi group stated that its website had been taken down and even acknowledged CEP’s own research.
Since 2016, CEP has publicly urged WordPress to more actively remove extremist content from their servers, only to be met with inaction or indifference. In November 2017, CEP released two separate reports showing that WordPress was hosting a Scottish Dawn neo-Nazi website and countless examples of ISIS and al-Qaeda propaganda. Despite each instance’s call for violence and racial hatred – and the clear need for immediate removal – WordPress responded to CEP with inane justifications of a desire to protect free speech or inconsistent enforcement of their own terms of service. It appears that WordPress has taken the responsible decision to ultimately remove many of these sites flagged by CEP. However, it is unfortunate that the removal of these pages did not occur in a timely manner and required notification from a third party.
Webhosting company GoDaddy also landed in hot water recently after CEP published research that found that the company was hosting the terror group Kataib Hezbollah’s (KH) website. The site, which boasted of “[cutting] off the hand of America,” was an extension of a group that is responsible for the killing of hundreds of American soldiers, United Nations workers and civilians. When confronted with the findings by 9News reporter Mark Saunokonoko, GoDaddy acknowledged the apparent terms of service violation, but refused to take the group down after broadly claiming the company was working with law enforcement.