Squarespace drops several white supremacist websites from its service

17 Aug 2017

Squarespace office. Image: Connor McKenna

Squarespace takes a stand against white supremacy.

Website builder Squarespace has removed a group of white supremacist sites from its platform in the wake of recent events in Charlottesville.

The removal of the sites comes after web hosting provider GoDaddy informed far-right website The Daily Stormer that it was no longer welcome. The decision was sparked following an offensive piece written about the late counter-protester Heather Heyer. She was killed by a participant in the Charlottesville rally organised by white supremacist organisation Unite The Right.

Future Human

In its acceptable use policy, Squarespace specifically mentions that users should not advocate bigoted views, stating: “Don’t advocate bigotry or hatred against any person or group based on their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, age or disability.

“Don’t do or post anything threatening, harassing, abusive, excessively violent, offensive, sexually explicit or obscene.”

Squarespace said it will give chosen sites 48 hours before they are dropped from its service. The Verge reported that white nationalist groups, including Identity Europa and the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, host their websites on Squarespace.

Richard Spencer, a figurehead of white nationalism, is also likely to be affected by the company’s decision as he is president of the National Policy Institute, an alt-right think tank.

Call for change

The calls for Squarespace to remove the sites have been ongoing for some time. In March of this year, Joseph Brown, assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, emailed to flag Spencer’s website being in violation of the acceptable use policy.

It responded on 13 March: “With so many diverse viewpoints, there are sometimes sites containing content that others find offensive. However, Squarespace strongly supports the principles of freedom of speech, the marketplace of ideas and empowering our users to share their opinions, even if those opinions are controversial or unpopular.”

Siliconrepublic.com spoke to Squarespace CEO Anthony Casalena in March 2017, where he said: “I think we have a right to defend free speech online but … disclosing people’s personal information and calling explicitly for violence is where we draw the line and cooperate with law enforcement.”

Many of the largest names in tech have been implementing strategies to combat the bigotry that was seen over the weekend of the Charlottesville rally. The Verge reported that Apple Pay has disabled its system on websites that sell white supremacist and Nazi-themed merchandise. Paypal and Stripe are also in the process of distancing themselves from the same sites.

The crackdown is broadening across many tech companies. Quartz reported that crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has removed multiple campaigns in aid of James Alex Fields Jr, the man who is accused of deliberately driving his car into counter-protesters, leading to the death of Heyer. Music streaming platform Spotify has also removed so-called “white power” music from its catalogue, according to CNET.

It is likely that more companies will follow suit in the wake of the violent events of last weekend.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects