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Kiwi Farms domain lands at Epik

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2022, Domain Registrars

The primary domain for the controversial web forum Kiwi Farms, kicked out by Cloudfare at the weekend, has been transferred to Epik.

Whois records show the domain kiwifarms.net landed at Epik in the last hour or so. It’s still using Cloudflare’s name servers at the time of writing, so it’s still resolving to a “blocked” message from its old registrar.

Cloudflare blocked the name, reluctantly, on Saturday, citing “an imminent and emergency threat to human life”, believed to refer to a transgender activist and Twitch streamer targeted for death threats by Kiwi Farms users.

The site, whose users reportedly bully, doxx and swat trans people, has been linked to three suicides since it was launched in 2013.

The question for Epik and its new CEO now is whether they let the domain stay under its roof, or whether the same concerns cited by Cloudflare make it too toxic to touch.

UPDATE 1724 UTC: Not long after this post was published, the domain started using Epik’s name servers.

Cloudflare blocks anti-trans site for “emergency threat to human life”

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2022, Domain Registrars

Internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare has “blocked” a site it provides domain services to after identifying “an imminent and emergency threat to human life”.

The company said on Saturday that it has reluctantly stopped providing services to Kiwi Farms, a web forum whose users reportedly bully and carry out doxxing and swatting attacks on transgender people and activists.

Visitors to kiwifarms.net are now presented with a message from Cloudflare stating: “Due to an imminent and emergency threat to human life, the content of this site is blocked from being accessed through Cloudflare’s infrastructure.”

A linked blog post explaining the decision said:

This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and, given Cloudflare’s role as an Internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with. However, the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and specific, targeted threats have escalated over the last 48 hours to the point that we believe there is an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life unlike we have previously seen from Kiwifarms or any other customer before.

The move is likely linked to a campaign by a trans Twitch streamer, who reportedly has been campaigning for Cloudflare to drop the site after multiple threats to her life, including a recent swatting (where armed police are tricked into showing up at your door).

Last week, the company had tried to explain its continued support for the domain by stating that one two previous occasions it has blocked sites, authoritarian governments have used that precedent to try to get human rights sites pulled.

At this stage, it appears that Cloudflare is using its status as the site’s DNS provider to implement the block. It’s still the domain’s registrar, and so far the Whois record does not reflect an attempt to move it elsewhere.

The domain was registered with DreamHost until last year, but was asked to leave following the suicide of a software developer, one of three suicides reportedly linked to Kiwi Farms users’ behavior.

Could Epik be its next destination? The company is a strong proponent of free speech, but even it has a line when it comes to violence. This could be Epik’s new CEO‘s first big test.

Epik replaces Monster with younger clone

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2022, Domain Registrars

Epik has replaced CEO Rob Monster with a younger model whose Twitter feed suggests could be every bit as controversial.

The company announced today that Brian Royce, who seems to have joined the company as an executive VP last month, is taking the corner office. Monster will stay on as non-executive chairman.

Royce appears to be a newcomer to the domain name industry, but ideologically very much in tune with Monster.

A glance at his Twitter feed for the last three months reveals he dislikes liberals, gun control, murder victim George Floyd, abortion rights, Joe Biden, wokeness, US attorney general Merrick Garland, Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, universal healthcare, Beto O’Rourke, mask-wearing and providing support to Ukraine.

It shows that he likes Christians, free speech, conservative politicians and, at least in May before Donald Trump started being publicly investigated, the police.

“Epik will continue to stand for free speech. It is extremely important to me to see core values of freedom, truth and liberty reflected in all we do at Epik,” Monster said in a press release.

“I am concerned about free speech as I look at what is happening across America. People are actively trying to silence people like Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock just for talking and telling jokes,” Royce said.

“More conversations, more speech, more debate—that is what makes people more informed and more compassionate,” he said.

Epik’s line on free speech has seen it become the registrar of choice for many controversial figures and organizations, often those asked to leave their original registrars due to their far-right or violent views.

Cancelled misogynist Andrew Tate moves domain to (drumroll)… Epik!

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2022, Domain Registrars

Andrew Tate has become the latest high-profile controversy magnet to move his domain to Epik, at the end of a week that saw him thoroughly “cancelled” over reportedly violently misogynistic speech.

Tate, a former kick-boxer and reality TV contestant who made his money through a large social media following and an online course called Hustler’s University, reportedly told Fox News host Tucker Carlson yesterday:

When they go to cancel you, ladies and gentlemen, it comes hard and fast. You lose your Facebook, then your Instagram, then your Gmail, your Discord, then your website hosting, your domain name, like then your payment processor, and your bank.

Tate reportedly had his accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Tiktok deleted this week. He was getting banned so much it briefly became a meme.

The domain name in question appears to be cobratate.com, based on his apparent nickname “Cobra”, and it appears to still be in his possession, although he has changed registrars.

Up until an hour or two ago the name was managed by Tucows, via United-Internet-owned reseller Fasthosts, but the Whois record now shows it’s with Epik.

It’s not clear right now whether he jumped or, as he implied to Fox, was pushed. Tucows tells me it had not received any complaints about the site, had not investigated, and had not asked Tate to leave. I’ve asked United for comment.

Epik has over the last few years become the safe-haven registrar of choice for people and groups who become internet persona non grata, typically those with far-right or violent views, such as Infowars, 8chan, Gab and The Daily Stormer.

Epik buys DNForum, explores member ownership options

Kevin Murphy, July 6, 2021, Domain Services

Controversial registrar Epik has acquired DNForum and says it is thinking about ways to make the site member-owned.

DNForum is a forum targeted mainly at domain investors. It competes with NamePros and has seen multiple sets of owners over the last few years.

Posting on DNForum, Epik CEO Rob Monster said he hopes to improve industry communication, interoperability and commercial opportunities — registrars will be welcome to pitch their promotions to users.

He said that Epik is “actively investigating a legally compliant way to turn DNForum into a member owned community based on crypto token”.

While popular with domainers, Epik has attracted controversy in recent years for soliciting and welcoming the business of domain names that have been “cancelled” elsewhere due to political extremism.

Whether this laissez-faire stance on free speech will extend to DNForum’s moderation practices in future remains to be seen.

Gun nut site crashes at Epik after GoDaddy shoots it down

Kevin Murphy, January 18, 2021, Domain Registrars

A site for American gun enthusiasts has switched registrars, moving its domain to Epik — apparently with the consent of CEO Rob Monster — after GoDaddy turfed it out for allegedly inciting violence.

According to a GoDaddy statement at the weekend, the registrar had received complaints about content on AR15.com — that’s the name of a gun popular with spree killers — and determined it “incited violence”.

It informed the domain’s owner the same day, January 8, two days after the Capitol Hill riots, giving him 24 hours to remove the offending content.

It’s not clear what the content in question was, but given the timing and the fact that the site is a scarily popular forum with largely user-generated content, it’s not difficult to imagine.

AR15.com’s owner, identified in a video as GoatBoy, claims that by the time he received the email from GoDaddy, the forum’s moderators had already removed the posts on the grounds that the site also has a policy against incitement to violence.

But GoDaddy disagrees, saying the content could still be found after its supposed removal. It took down the domain on January 11. It said in a statement:

We do not take action on complaints that would constitute censorship of content that represents the exercise of freedom of speech and expression on the Internet. In instances where a site goes beyond the mere exercise of these freedoms, however, and crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in violence, as was the case with AR15.com, we will take action.

The AR15.com domain is now hosted by Epik, which has in recent years made a name for itself as a refuge for sites frequented by those with far-right views, such as 8chan, Gab and Parler.

GoatBoy says in the video embedded below: “I had the privilege of speaking with some of the guys on the executive staff, including the owner of Epik. Their views really align well with ours. They’re very pro First Amendment and very pro Second Amendment.”

Westerdal offloads two more gTLDs to Donuts

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2020, Domain Registries

Donuts has bulked out its gTLD portfolio yet again, acquiring two more strings from Fegistry and Top Level Spectrum.

ICANN records show that it recently took over the contracts for .observer and .realty.

They’re both launched, active TLDs. Both selling registries are backed by investor Jay Westerdal.

.observer was bought dormant by TLS from the British newspaper of the same name in 2016 and launched the following year with .com-competitive prices.

TLS has been marketing it as a place for news organizations, though it’s unrestricted. Registrations plateaued at about 1,000 a couple of years ago and haven’t seen much movement since.

.realty is a different story.

Fegistry paid ICANN $5,588,888 at a public auction — beating Donuts, in fact — in 2014, and launched it in 2017 with a roughly $300-a-year retail price.

It’s been cruising along with about 2,200 names under management for the last couple of years, until this September and early October, when its zone file shot up to almost 18,000 domains.

This seems to have been the result of a $0.99 promotion at Epik, which has since ended.

One would have to assume that the vast majority of those new domains will be speculative and are unlikely to renew at the full $300 reg fee a year from now.

While the contracts changed hands in late October, it’s inconceivable that Donuts was not aware of the quality of the recent registrations.

It’s not the first time Westerdal’s businesses have sold to Donuts, which took .contact off Top Level Spectrum’s hands in April 2019. That gTLD entered general availability this week.

It’s also handed off responsibility for .forum to MMX, which plans to launch it with a puzzling $1,000 price tag next March, although TLS is still listed as the ICANN contractor.

TLS still runs the controversial gripe site TLD .feedback, along with the unlaunched head-scratcher .pid.

Fegistry is still fighting for .hotel, along with rival applicants, in ICANN’s quasi-judicial Independent Review Process.

I was wrong, rejected “racist” web site didn’t go to Epik

Vdare.com, the domain for a US-based right-wing news blog that was jettisoned from Network Solutions last week under a cloud of racism allegations, did not, as expected, wind up at Epik.

Rather, Whois records reveal that the domain is now under the wing of PublicDomainRegistry.com, a unit of Endurance, having been transferred at the weekend.

Perhaps ironically, PDR is based in India, where white supremacy has been out of style for many decades. How very patriotic.

Unlike NetSol, PDR does not have an explicit ban on racist content in its acceptable use policy.

But Vdare’s editors think there’s a risk they’ll be moved on again, regardless, writing:

The number of ICANN accredited registrars has shrunk significantly in recent years as a result of consolidation. Many consumer-level registrars are not independent, but repackage services from larger companies. These larger companies are increasingly Woke. So while an individual registrar retailer may claim a freedom of speech mission-oriented corporate value, they operate solely at the pleasure of their supply chain.

In other words, we don’t know how long we’ll be tolerated by the new registrar either.

NetSol ejected Vdare earlier this month under pressure from civil rights groups in the wake of the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and worldwide anti-racism protests.

Vdare in unapologetically anti-immigration and has described its role as to “defend the interests of American whites”, which has led to allegations of a white supremacist agenda.

I’d predicted that its domain would be welcomed by Epik, which has built up a bit of a reputation for working with domains kicked out of other registrars.

But when you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and I was wrong, at least for now.

Web.com is kicking out a racist web site. How long before it winds up at Epik?

An American news site for white nationalists says it’s been given its goose-stepping orders by Web.com unit Network Solutions, and it’s looking for a new registrar.

VDare, named after Virginia Dare, a semi-mythological American folk hero, has been publishing anti-immigration material on vdare.com under NetSol’s wing for 20 years, but the site claims the registrar has given it 10 days, until June 25, to GTFO.

According to the site, NetSol told VDare that it was in violation of its acceptable use policy and “we consider your continued use of our services a serious issue and risk to our business and corporate reputation”.

That seems plausible, given how corporate America is currently bending over backwards to prove that they support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The move seems to have come due to pressure from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a campaigning group that persuaded NetSol to dump racist forum Stormfront as a customer a few years ago (it found its new home at Tucows).

The Committee has reportedly written to NetSol twice recently, urging the company to cut Vdare loose.

Vdare says it’s looking for a new registrar, but has also obtained a .onion domain in case it needs to retreat to the “Dark Web”. The .onion space is only accessible to users of the Tor browser.

Anyone care to place a bet on how long it will be before vdare.com winds up at Epik?

Should Epik be banned from NamesCon as racism debate spills over into domain industry?

Should GoDaddy-owned domain conference NamesCon ban the controversial registrar Epik from its conferences, after a day in which the domaining fraternity descended into a race row?

The fight kicked off last night when Epik director and noted domain investor Braden Pollock announced he was quitting the board over ideological differences with CEO Rob Monster.

Pollock did not explain his exact reasons for quitting, but the assumption among domainers on Twitter and elsewhere, perhaps due to heightened race awareness during the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, was that it was race-related.

Pollock’s wife is the civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom, who is currently representing victims of police violence during the BLM protests.

Monster is a conspiracy theorist and Bible-bashing Christian who has been accused over the years of racism, antisemitism, and worse.

Even if Monster is not a racist (and plenty of his associates, even his critics, believe he is not), Epik is certainly friendly to racist registrants.

It caused controversy in March last year by publicly offering to host gab.com, the Twitter clone most often used by right-wing refugees escaping Twitter’s ban hammer.

It also took the domain business of 8chan, a forum site frequented by racists, though it refused to actually host the site.

The registrar is also very popular with domainers, due to its low price and domainer-friendly services.

Before long, Pollock’s tweet had spawned a thread of domainers expressing support for either Pollock or Monster, as well as casually throwing accusations of racism at each other.

Pretty much the same thing was going on over on NamePros and Facebook.

Epik all but confirmed that race was at the center of the disagreement by tweeting out the names of a couple dozen employees, whom I can only assume are not white, with the hashtag #diversity.

Monster himself posted a short video in which he appeared to denounce racism.

Later today, Epik posted a screenshot of a Facebook comment by NamesCon CEO Soeren von Varchmin, in which he suggested Epik had been banned from the conference, which the company has previously sponsored.

The tweet tagged both GoDaddy and the US Federal Trade Commission.

While the von Varchmin comment is genuine, I’m told that he was speaking in a personal capacity and it’s not current GoDaddy policy to ban Epik.

But should it?