Epik (domain registrar)

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Epik, Inc.
IndustryWeb services
Founded2009; 10 years ago (2009)
FounderRob Monster
Headquarters,
Key people
Rob Monster (founder and CEO)
ServicesDomain name registration, web hosting
Websiteepik.com

Epik is an ICANN-accredited domain registrar and web hosting company[1] known for providing services to websites that host far-right, Neo-Nazi, and other extremist content as well as those that sell illegal drugs and counterfeit medications.[8] It has been described by Vice as "a safehaven for the extreme right" because of its willingness to host websites that have been shut down by other web hosts.[5]

History[edit]

Epik was founded in 2009 by Rob Monster, who serves as the company's chief executive officer. The company is based in Sammamish, Washington.[2]

In February 2019, it was announced that Epik had acquired BitMitigate, a Canadian cybersecurity company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. BitMitigate provides websites protection against potential threats including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The company continues to operate as a division of Epik, and BitMitigate's founder Nicholas Lim serves as Epik's chief technology officer.[6]

Hosting of far-right and illicit content[edit]

The company touts itself as a protector of free speech,[7] and CEO Rob Monster has described Epik as "the Swiss bank of domains".[3] Epik has a history of not responding to reports of illegal activity on the websites they register, which is unusual for domain registrars based in the United States.[4] Pharmaceutical watchdog website LegitScript has reported that they alerted Epik to the sale of illegal drugs and counterfeit medications on websites registered by Epik, and that Epik has not acted upon the information.[4]

Epik received media attention in early November 2018 for registering Gab, an English-language social media website known for its mainly far-right user base, after it was ousted by GoDaddy for allowing "content on the site that both promotes and encourages violence against people." This came shortly after it was revealed that the perpetrator of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting had used the service to post "hateful content".[2][9][10][11] Monster described GoDaddy's choice to terminate their relationship with Gab as "heavy-handed".[3] Tal Moore, a member of Epik's board, resigned in December 2018 over the company's involvement with Gab.[3]

Epik is also known for registering other websites with far-right content, such as the video hosting service BitChute and the conspiracy theory website InfoWars.[5][7]

BitMitigate[edit]

BitMitigate, a Canadian cybersecurity company acquired by Epik in 2019, had also received media attention for its association with far-right groups. In August 2017, GoDaddy and Cloudflare terminated services for American neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and Holocaust denial commentary and message board website The Daily Stormer[16] after it published an article mocking Heather Heyer, the victim of the vehicle ramming attack that occurred at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that same month. BitMitigate subsequently stepped in to provide the services that Cloudfare had been providing. Like Epik, BitMitigate has defended its services to extremist websites as upholding free speech, and described the refusal of some companies to provide services to these websites as censorship.[6]

Subpoena[edit]

On November 7, 2018, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sent a subpoena to Epik requesting "any and all documents which are related in any way to Gab" after Gab registered its domains onto Epik.[17][18] Gab posted screenshots of the subpoena letter in a tweet on the day the subpoena was sent, despite being asked to keep the letter confidential, saying that "We will not be bullied or intimidated."[17][18] The tweet was deleted hours later.[17][18] In response to the tweet and subpoena, Rob Monster said in an email statement to Ars Technia that "the news of the subpoena was not intended for public consumption" and that "we are cooperating with their inquiry."[18] Also in a statement to Ars Technia, Gab called the subpoena a "baseless, political, and emotionally-driven witch hunt."[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ICANN-Accredited Registrars". ICANN. May 5, 2019. Archived from the original on May 5, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Baker, Mike (November 4, 2018). "Seattle-area company helps fringe site Gab return in wake of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting". The Seattle Times. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Schulberg, Jessica (December 12, 2018). "The Bible-Thumping Tech CEO Who's Proud Of Keeping Neo-Nazis Online". HuffPost. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Martineau, Paris (November 6, 2018). "How Right-Wing Social Media Site Gab Got Back Online". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Makuch, Ben (May 8, 2019). "The Far Right Has Found a Web Host Savior". Vice. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Macuk, Anthony (February 15, 2019). "Epik buys Vancouver-based BitMitigate". The Columbian. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Hayden, Michael Edison (January 11, 2019). "A Problem of Epik Proportions". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  8. ^ [2][3][4][5][6][7]
  9. ^ Hess, Amanda (November 30, 2016). "The Far Right Has a New Digital Safe Space". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Robertson, Adi (September 6, 2017). "Far-right friendly social network Gab is facing censorship controversy". The Verge. Archived from the original on April 4, 2018. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  11. ^ Selyukh, Alina (May 21, 2017). "Feeling Sidelined By Mainstream Social Media, Far-Right Users Jump To Gab". National Public Radio. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  12. ^ Wines, Michael (July 5, 2015). "White Supremacists Extend Their Reach Through Websites". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 24, 2015. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Pearce, Matt (June 24, 2015). "What happens when a millennial goes fascist? He starts up a neo-Nazi site". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 16, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  14. ^ O'Brien, Luke (January 19, 2018). "American Neo-Nazi Is Using Holocaust Denial As A Legal Defense". HuffPost. Archived from the original on April 23, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  15. ^ O'Brein, Luke (December 2017). "The Making of an American Nazi". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on April 4, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2018. (As Anglin would later write, the official policy of his site was: “Jews should be exterminated.”)
  16. ^ [12][13][14][15]
  17. ^ a b c Blake, Andrew (November 9, 2018). "Epik, Gab's newest domain provider, subpoenaed in wake of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting". The Associated Press. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d e Lee, Timothy B. (November 8, 2019). "Gab cries foul as Pennsylvania attorney general subpoenas DNS provider". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 5, 2019.

External links[edit]