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Where Global Internet Freedom Meets a Koran-Burning Florida Church

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, September 10 2010

Image credit: Left Coast Rebel

Here's a provocative domestic twist on the debate over the sort of global Internet freedom that Hillary Clinton has taken a stand on over at the State Department. Rackspace, the Texas-based hosting company, has pulled down the website of the Dove World Outreach Center, reports Wired's David Kravets. Dove World is the Gainsville, Florida church outfit whose pastor, Terry Jones, had planned to commemorate tomorrow's anniversary of the September 11th attacks in the U.S. by sponsoring an "International Burn a Koran Day."

Rackspace, reports Kravets, is contending that the Dove World site, until recently up at doveworld.org, violates its terms of service. The company says that it has no duty to provide an Internet link to the world for "hate speech."

IslamIsOfTheDevil.com, another Dove World site, is down today, too, though Facebook has left the companion Facebook page up and running.

Rackspace's Dove World yank-down raises a number of interesting questions. For one, when we talk about the right of people to have equal ability to disseminate information online, something at the heart of the net neutrality debate raging in the U.S., what does that mean for private hosting companies? Website hosting companies are a dime a dozen. Dove World could easily go elsewhere, moving their site in minutes to any other host that will have them, and the Internet's DNS servers spread over the world will quickly reorient themselves to point doveworld.org to its new IP address. Is that enough to make what Rackspace did different than if, say, Comcast said that they were going to sever Dove World's Internet hook-up?

It's something of a new frontier in the net neutrality debate, and it will be fascinating to see if we hear anything about Rackspace's treatment of Dove World from the big Internet freedom advocacy groups like Free Press. Or for that matter, Hillary Clinton.