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GoDaddy Is Booting A Site That Sought Anonymous Tips About Texas Abortions

A screen capture of the website established by Texas Right to Life encouraging members of the public to submit "anonymous tips" about violators of the state's new restrictive abortion law.
A screen capture of the website established by Texas Right to Life encouraging members of the public to submit "anonymous tips" about violators of the state's new restrictive abortion law.

GoDaddy will no longer host a site set up by the Texas Right to Life to collect anonymous tips about when the state's new law banning almost all abortions was being violated.

The website promoted itself as a way to "help enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act," since the Texas law allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or assists in an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.

On Thursday night, officials at GoDaddy informed the Texas Right to Life that it was violating the company's terms of service and would no longer provide hosting, giving the group 24 hours to find another provider before going dark, according to Dan Race, a GoDaddy spokesman.

In recent days, the tip line has been inundated with fake reports from TikTok and Redditusers who sought to overwhelm and crash the site with prank messages.

Some software developers helped further fuel the push to flood the tip line with spam by developing tools to make it easy.

Portland, Ore.-based computer programmer Jonathan Díaz created an app, Pro-Life Buster, to generate fabricated stories that would be submitted at random times to the site. More than 1,000 made-up stories had been shared by users.

"It's no one's business to know about people's abortions, and such a website is absolutely deplorable," Díaz wrote. "This is why we're pushing back."

On GitHub, a site where developers share and collaborate on software code, Díaz wrote: "Hopefully these fake tips help make the system useless."

GoDaddy confirmed to NPR that that the digital tip line violated its prohibition on collecting personally identifiable information about someone without the person's consent. GoDaddy also bans sites that violate the privacy or confidentiality of another person.

A representative for Texas Right to Life said in a statement that the group will not be silenced and that it is "not afraid of the mob."

"Our IT team is already in process of transferring our assets to another provider and we'll have the site restored within 24-48 hours," said spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz.

Web hosting companies, which provide the out-of-sight infrastructure that keeps the Internet operating, have before come under pressure for hosting divisive content.

Amazon Web Services stopped hosting right-leaning social media site Parler, citing its role in inciting violence in the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol. And GoDaddy, back in 2018, severed ties with conservative social network Gab after it emerged that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter was a frequent user of the site.

Alternative web hosting companies, like Epik, based in the Seattle area, and SkySilk, outside of Los Angeles, often have rescued polarizing sites that are booted from other web hosting companies for violating rules or giving a platform to incendiary or violent content.

Officials from Epik and SkySilk have not said whether one of the companies will support the Texas Right to Life site.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn
Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.