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13/08/07
Neo-Con Censorship: A Threat to All of Us
by Hossein Derakhshan

If someone can silence whatever he or she doesn't like, we are all going to be in big trouble soon.

While everyone is on holidays, a new blow to online free speech has taken place, and I would like to share it with you and ask for help.

Last Friday, my blog was shut down by my hosting company (Florida-based Hosting Matters), as a result of a legal notice sent by Mehdi Khalaji, an Iranian fellow at a neo-conservative think tank (Washington Institute for the Near East Policy with Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and James Woolsey on its advisory board).

Khalaji's lawyer sent a notice to my hosting company and also my domain registrar, Go Daddy, asking them to a) remove any "defamatory" material about him, b) make me publish an apology, and c) pay $10,000 for the claimed damages.

The lawyer's claim is based on a mistranslation of a post I wrote a few months ago about Khalaji and his support for a disgusting anti-Iranian campaign ("Iran Freedom Initiative") at another neo-conservative think tank (American Foreign Policy Council) and his counsel to a think tank with a clear agenda to overthrow the Iranian government by economic warfare or military attack.

The hosting company, clearly intimidated, asked me to remove that specific post and also any other material related to Khalaji, since they didn't have enough resources to figure out if they were actually defamatory or not.

I removed the mentioned post, but resisted such a strange request to remove anything I had written that mentioned Khalaji.

Then last Friday, I noticed that the hosting company had actually removed, from my web server and even my blogging software's database, any post where Khalaji was named in English.

After threatening me not to disclose what the hosting company did, and after a few email exchanges, they terminated my account.

I have now migrated to a new hosting company, outside the United States, still struggling to get my numerous domain names, databases, and online applications back and running.

This is a threat to all of us who write anything online these days.  If someone can silence whatever he or she doesn't like, even before a court order, by intimidating hosting and domain registrar companies based on mistranslated material, we are all going to be in big trouble soon.

It's all quite ironic that the way I am treated in the United States (being kicked out of my servers) is worse than that in the Islamic Republic of Iran (filtering my blog and forcing me to sign an apology when I was last in Tehran).  Ever more ironic is that a blog I was editing to cover internet censorship in Iran has also been shut down.

Please feel free to blog this and spread the word any way you can.  I'll keep you posted about the new developments by email, as well as on my temporary blog on blogspot (hodertempblog.blogspot.com).

Here are the supporting documents:

  1. The initial legal notice from Khalaji's lawyer:
    hoder.com/weblog/images/khalajithreat.pdf
  2. Email exchange with the hosting company that led to termination of my accounts:
    hodertemp.blogspot.com/2007/08/
    accounts-and-billing-hosting-matters.html
  3. My trouble with Islamic Republic of Iran's authorities:
    www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2006/03/70522

Hossein Derakhshan, aka hoder, is a blogger, journalist, and multimedia developer who emigrated from Iran to Canada in 2000.  
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