NewsNational Politics

Actions

Illegal abortion 'whistleblower' page on pro-life group's website disappears amid hosting controversy

Abortion Restrictions Texas law
Posted at 8:54 AM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 11:54:50-04

A "whistleblower" site set up by a pro-life, anti-abortion group that solicited tips and information of those who helped women obtain abortions deemed illegal by a new Texas law has been taken offline after hosting sites said the webpage violated their terms of service.

Texas Right to Life launched the "whistleblower" site earlier this year after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state's "fetal heartbeat bill" into law. The law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. The law also does not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The law also makes it illegal for anyone to assist a woman in obtaining an illegal abortion — be it a doctor carrying out the procedure, a staff member at an abortion clinic or a rideshare driver who took a woman to an abortion clinic. The law allows any private citizen to sue another person suspected of assisting in an illegal abortion, with a successful suit resulting in a penalty of $10,000.

After the bill was signed into law, Texas Right to Life launched the whistleblower site that allowed supporters to submit the information of anyone suspected of assisting in illegal abortions as a way to "help enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act."

However, as of Monday morning, the Texas Right to Life whistleblower page does not appear to be active. The page's old URL, prolifewhistleblower.com, now redirects to the Texas Right to Life homepage.

The redirect comes after GoDaddy, an internet domain registrar and hosting site, told NPR on Friday that the site was violating its terms of service. NPR reported that GoDaddy had given Texas Right to Life 24 hours to find another provider before the site would go dark.

According to The Verge, Texas Right to Life was violating GoDaddy's terms of service by "collecting...non-public or personally identifiable information about another User...without their express prior written consent."

Ars Technica reports that the Texas Right to Life site was briefly hosted by Digital Ocean on Friday afternoon — a company that the Ars Technica reports has similar terms of service against the invasion of privacy and harassment.

By early Saturday morning, Texas Right to Life had found a new hosting partner in Epik — a company that has provided hosting capabilities to controversial sites like Gab, Parler and 8chan. However, according to The Verge, the anonymous tip form also violated Epik's terms of service, and it was ultimately removed from the site by Monday morning.

Prior to its removal, the anonymous tip form was the target of spamming attacks by pro-choice activists. One TikTok user went viral for developing a program that submitted a phony tip to the site four to five times a minute and creating an iPhone shortcut so others could spam the site as well. Other activists uploaded explicit videos — including pornographic videos featuring Shrek — to the site.