A San Antonio company found itself sucked into the controversy over the Dove World Outreach Center's planned burning of religious texts.
Rackspace Hosting Inc. hosted the Florida church's website, but stopped providing services late Wednesday after determining the Dove World Outreach Center violated a provision in its contract regarding hate speech, a Rackspace spokesman said.
The company received complaints that the center violated the acceptable use policy, which is available on the Rackspace website, Rackspace spokesman Dan Goodgame said..
Goodgame would not say what material violated the policy, but said that on Wednesday, Rackspace tried to get the church to take it down.
The church refused, Goodgame said, so Rackspace gave it time to move its content off the servers and then stopped hosting the site.
“It was a short conversation,” he said. “They made clear they were going to continue doing what they were doing.”
The Dove World Outreach Center's website and another site promoting a book by church pastor Terry Jones were not working Thursday afternoon. Multiple calls to a phone number listed for the center got busy signals.
“The reason we terminated our relationship with them as a customer is because they violated their contract with us, specifically the acceptable use provisions regarding hate speech,” Goodgame said. “So it's strictly a business matter and a contract matter for us.”
Rackspace has more than 100,000 customers and cannot monitor all the content on its server, he said. Employees looked into the Dove World Outreach Center only because the company received complaints.
Rackspace's censure does not tread on the U.S. Constitution, said Jennifer Henderson, chairwoman of the communications department at Trinity University.
“The First Amendment protects individuals from government. (It does not) protect us from other private entities,” Henderson said. “And so when we enter into those contracts, we have to abide by them, and the Constitution doesn't really come into play.”
But as hosting companies and service providers — entities that act as “gatekeepers” to the Internet — consolidate, there will be more debate about how much control they can exercise over content, she said.
“I think that there are a lot of groups, including many people in Congress, who would like to have more regulation of content on the Internet on all different sides and would like to put up more barriers in terms of distribution of information,” Henderson said.
For now, she said, hosting companies such as Rackspace cannot police all the information on their servers and do not want to because it could open them up to lawsuits.
The company had not wanted to get caught up in a national debate, Goodgame said.
“All we're doing is abiding by policies that have been in place at Rackspace for a long time,” he said.