The First Amendment protects all speech, especially speech we don’t like. While the First Amendment prohibits the U.S. Government from taking down publications like the neo-Nazi Stormfront website, it doesn’t stop the hosting providers from pulling the plug themselves. The Giffords gun control group reckons that might work for guns. From The AP:
A gun control group founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords asked two web hosting companies on Friday to shut down websites selling parts and machines that help make untraceable homemade firearms known as “ghost guns.”
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence asked the providers that host GhostGunner.net and GhostGuns.com to disable the websites for violating the hosting companies’ terms of service.
Again, Constitutional protections only dictate what the government can or cannot do; private citizens are free to provide or deny their services to whomever they choose. In theory. Unless it’s a gay couple asking for a wedding cake, apparently.
But the cut ’em off at the server tactic has worked in the past to take down “hate speech” websites, making “progress” where the government has been unable or unwilling to venture.
Giffords’ argument: the sites providing materials and instructions for people to manufacture their own firearms at home violate the terms of service of the hosting providers.
After reading both the Terms of Service and the Acceptable Use Policy for DreamHost, there’s nothing prohibiting these sites from conducting business. The only clause in the ToS that is applicable is a statement that customers can be terminated at any time for any reason.
Giffords thinks that “the sort of products that have already caused scores of senseless deaths — and are likely to cause many more, unless taken off the market.” Forcibly in this case.
But the same argument could be made of Home Depot selling hammers on their website, which have killed far more people this year than all the Ghost Gun related murders.
The fact remains that these sites are legal and comply with all applicable terms and agreements. Giffords is hoping that liberal lobbying will create enough public pressure to have them taken down anyway, due process be damned.