Web hosting company Rackspace said Thursday that it had refused to host the Web site associated with the Dove World Outreach Center, run by a pastor who had said that he planned to stage an event to burn the Koran this Saturday.
The BBC reported that Terry Jones later canceled the event, claiming that it was "not the time" to burn the Islamic holy text. The Gainesville, Flor. site has less than 50 members, according to the BBC.
That didn't stop Rackspace, which said that the actions of Jones and the Dove World center had violated the company's acceptable use policy (AUP), which forbids hate speech.
That policy forbids content that "is excessively violent, incites violence, threatens violence, or contains harassing content or hate speech," Rackspace said.
"What we're focused on here is something that is narrow, abusive, hateful speech that does not advance any argument," said Dan Goodgame, a spokesman for Rackspace.
Goodgame said that the service continually receives complaints about customers violating the AUP. All are checked out, although some are dismissed as bogus. The complaints about Dove World were not. "This was pretty bad stuff," Goodgame said, and the decision to terminate the Dove World relationship was vetted by the Rackspace corporate counsel and other senior management.
Goodgame said that Rackspace held a brief conversation with Dove World on Wednesday afternoon, and that the Dove World staff made it clear that they could either remove the offending content, or move the site to another provider. Dove World refused, and Rackspace gave the church several hours to migrate the content.
"At this point, we've severed our relationship with them as a customer," Goodgame said. The church has not asked to come back, he added.
Claims that Rackspace has denied Dove World the right of free speech is an "absurd argument," Goodgame said. "We as a company believe strongly that an individual has the right to stand on a public street corner and to shout racial epithets if they wish," Goodgame said. "But if they were to walk into the Mark Hachman Hardware Store and shout racial epithets at the customers and employees, they would have the right to ban them."
The Dove World site returned a directory error on Thursday afternoon. A second site, named after Jones' book, was also offline.