Even Epik says the Texas abortion “whistleblower” site violates its rules

Even Epik says the Texas abortion “whistleblower” site violates its rules

Pro-choice protesters march in Texas, carrying signs that say Enlarge / Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 1, 2021, in Austin, Texas.

Getty Images | The Washington Post

Epik, the domain registrar for controversial sites such as Gab and Parler, says that the Texas abortion-whistleblower website violates its terms of use.

The Texas Right to Life group’s prolifewhistleblower.com website was booted by GoDaddy on Friday for violating its rules, including one that prohibits sites from using GoDaddy to “collect or harvest… non-public or personally identifiable information” without people’s prior written consent. The website switched its domain registration from GoDaddy to Epik and switched its name servers from GoDaddy to hosting provider Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean quickly cut off service, and the abortion-whistleblower site’s domain records now list Epik as both the registrar and name servers.

But the website—which encouraged people to report violations of the restrictive new anti-abortion law in Texas—is offline, and the domain now redirects to Texas Right to Life’s homepage. The group says it plans to get the site back online.

Epik general counsel Daniel Prince emailed Ars and other news organizations on Sunday, saying, “When the site owner moved it to Epik’s name servers… we contacted the owner of the site, notified them that the website violated Epik’s terms of use, and persuaded them to stop collecting anonymous tips and to take it off the Internet entirely. At no time did Epik serve as the web host for prolifewhistleblower.com.”


Texas group “exploring” options for domain

As previously noted, prolifewhistleblower.com still uses Epik as its domain registrar. Texas Right to Life spokesperson Kimberlyn Schwartz told Ars yesterday that “we’re not being kicked off Epik” but suggested that the site will change to a new registrar. “We’re exploring various long-term plans for the domain,” Schwartz said.

When asked why Epik hasn’t terminated the site’s domain registration, Prince told us today that “the domain is not currently violating our terms of service by simply redirecting to the main page of Texas Right to Life. If that changes, we’ll address it.” Epik did not tell us which rule the site breaks, but a Daily Beast article said the “specific violation was reportedly the collection of information on third parties without their consent.”

Texas Right to Life says the site will return. “For now, prolifewhistleblower.com is redirecting to texasrighttolife.com while we move hosts. It will be back up soon to collect anonymous tips,” Schwartz told us. Advertisement

Epik known for serving extremist sites

Founded and led by CEO Rob Monster, “Epik supports the conspiracy theory website InfoWars, embattled conservative platform Parler, the largely unregulated YouTube alternative BitChute, the gun forum AR15.com, and a site for rabid Trump supporters called Patriots.win, previously known as The Donald,” NPR noted in a February 2021 article. Epik calls itself “the Swiss bank of the domain industry.”

Epik is the owner of BitMitigate, which provides DDoS protection, a CDN, and other services for websites. The abortion-whistleblower site was briefly redirecting to BitMitigate’s website on Friday night.

Texas’ six-week abortion ban

The Texas Heartbeat Act took effect on Wednesday last week, banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The law allows people to sue abortion providers or anyone who “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion” and recover civil damages of at least $10,000 for each abortion that violates the law.

The anti-abortion group’s whistleblower site urged people to report violations, saying that “Texas Right to Life will ensure that these lawbreakers are held accountable for their actions.”

Texas Right to Life on Friday said it would have the website back up and running within 24 to 48 hours but didn’t meet that goal. “Pro-abortion advocates tried for over a week to overwhelm the website with traffic and fake tips,” Schwartz wrote in a blog post. “When they failed, keyboard warriors harassed GoDaddy to take down our site.”

Epik helped Gab and Parler stay online

Epik is still the domain registrar for Gab, a right-wing social network that was booted by GoDaddy after a 2018 mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a white supremacist who had made an antisemitic post on Gab before the attack.

Epik is also the domain registrar for Parler, which had a domain registration with Dreamhost before making the switch. That happened after Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol in January 2021—Parler also had to change hosts because it was cut off by Amazon Web Services.

Epik is still the domain registrar for 8chan. But the 8chan website now simply links to its successor, 8kun, which uses a different provider.

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