Hosting recomendations & FOSTA

Not sure if this is the right forum or not, move topic if needed.

I had no idea that has a hosting reconsiderations page. And their recommendations are terrible. For one thing they’re all US-based, one of them is owned by EIG, and there are many much better hosts.

It is my opinion as I’ve made clear over on Webhostingtalk, that since FOSTA-SESTA the US no longer a safe place to host any website that is on a shared server. Or even on a VPS. Why? Because on my reading of current US law (18 U.S.C. §2421A, and 47 U.S.C. §230) entire servers can be taken off-line by the datacente if they find a single escorting/prostitution website, and virtually all hosts as far as I can tell are doing nothing (i.e. they’re not removing sex worker’s websites) which means the entire server can be turned off at any time by the Datacentre should the DC become aware that such a site is being hosted on a server. One of the few exceptions I know of, ironically, is - they have been pro-actively shadow-banning sex worker’s websites. Although there’s no mention of this in their TOS, the only place it is addressed is their Mature Content page which makes no explicit reference to FOSTA. And before anyone says my interpretation of the law is wrong - Cloudflare banned Switter. An Australian-owned social media platform for sex workers hosted in Iceland, and Cloudflare said they had to take action because of FOSTA. And this is Cloudflare we’re talking about - they willingly allow 4chan and 8chan on their network. Other US-based hosting providers that have been kicking off sex worker websites are Wix, Squarespace, and Godaddy.

As you can see on WHT no one wants to talk about FOSTA. Not a single host so far has responded to that topic! And the reason is because most people still have no idea about FOSTA - they know about DMCA and GDPR, but neither of those things can have an entire server turned off at any time without a warrant by the datacentre, nor can they get you banned from Cloudflare. So US-based hosts want to keep this a secret, and most concerning of all is that in the vast majority of TOS/AUPs I looked at don’t say anything at all about FOSTA. Most affected customers (sex workers themselves, web designers, etc) have little to no awareness that FOSTA means they can’t host their sites in the US, and in fact many webhosting customers the kind that use Wordpress and other CMSs often have little awareness of where their sites are being hosted, which means they will continue to sign up and make their websites on US hosting. It’s really not at all surprising the webhosts on WHT don’t want to talk about it, as they will have to admit that unless they monitor every hosting account pro-actively (which is not industry standard at all) then all their customers on shared and VPS are at risk of the server being turned off at any time. It essentially means that only managed hosting and dedicated servers in the US is safe from the possible effects of FOSTA.

To give a soild example, the website for Anne Babe's House a brothel located here in Canberra is presently hosted in the US by Godaddy. And yes that’s in clear violation of their TOS, Godaddy even though they’re a terrible host is one of the very few that actually does have a policy enforcing FOSTA - but you can see they are not pro-actively enforcing it all the time. And it wouldn’t matter if they were on GoDaddy’s Australian co-location datacentre, FOSTA would still apply (although the Aussie DC would be under no obligation to take the server down, obviously, unless of course the Aussie DC was US-owned).

So how does this relate to hosting recommendations? Well two reasons. Firstly - I do not think it would be right to be recommending to people hosts where you cannot legally host an entire industry - no matter how grubby the industry might be there are plenty of legitimate businesses that need hosting. It also affects web developers who have sex worker clients. As ClassicPress is business orientated any hosting recommendations (if made) should be hosts that do not discriminate against people for their occupation.

Secondly, except where the host owns the datacentre, all shared hosting and VPS customers on US hosting no matter what their website or business is are at risk of having the their server turned off by the datacentre because of FOSTA. There is the argument that was made in a topic unrelated to FOSTA that “It could happen to any provider at anytime” - and that is true however the FOSTA-SESTA legislation requires the provider take immediate proactive action, there is no other similar regulation that applies in the US or other major western democracy that requires the datacentre to turn off a server when they find something - to compel them to do so would usually require a warrant or that they notified the server owner and they failed to take action. The datacentre doesn’t even need to receive a complaint to take this kind of action. It also means if they do receive a complaint they are compelled to take immediate action themselves - not pass that complaint on to the host for them to worry about as happens with DMCA or GDPR. And the hosts that own the datacentres, like Godaddy and EIG, are the worst hosts there are for shares hosting anyway so you wouldn’t want to recommend them!

That got a little ranty, I guess the gist of it is that don’t make hosting recommendations unless you want to properly educate people, FOSTA fundamentally changed everything to do with US-owned and US-located hosting, it’s a mess and 1 year on a lot of people still don’t know or are in denial about this, and for god’s sake don’t recommend EIG!

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We have been looking into setting up our hosting recommendations.

We plan to take a different approach, one where our team actually vets potential recommendations prior to giving them the seal of approval so end users aren’t left with bad recommendations.

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I can see all sorts of problems with this. Just to name a few off the top of my head…

  1. With the ones that get the seal of approval, will you also be monitoring them to make sure they haven’t gone downhill. I don’t know what it’s like over there, but here hosting companies get bought out or merged all the time. Sadly, with us it’s mostly a case of a bigger US company buys up a great smaller one and the service drops off markedly.

  2. Are you going to recommend based on geolocation of the user? There’s no way I’d be using a host outside of Australia.

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You’ve also got to wonder whether they are getting kickbacks for recommendations. I know Siteground have a very strong affiliate scheme and there are endless numbers of sites saying how wonderful they are… oh, and sign up with this link right here.