Frequently Asked Questions

The NearlyFreeSpeech.NET FAQ (*)

Non-Member (*)

One of your customer's sites offends me. Who do I email to have it taken down?

Please see Abuse @ NearlyFreeSpeech.NET.

How do I report a violation of your Terms and Conditions of Service or illegal activity?

Please see Abuse @ NearlyFreeSpeech.NET.

How do I report that my copyrighted content is being distributed by a site you host?

Please see Abuse @ NearlyFreeSpeech.NET.

I visited a site that is hosted with NearlyFreeSpeech.NET. Why did I receive an "access denied" error?

Please see this page for complete information on this message and how to eliminate it.

What happens when I report a technical problem with someone else's services?

We are happy to receive reports about problems, no matter what the source. However, if you report a technical problem with someone else's services, you may get a frustrating response.

Our Privacy Policy doesn't allow us to discuss our members' services with other people without the affected member's consent. That includes problems and our efforts to fix them or alert the affected member. Therefore, we can respond to problem reports from the public only by acknowledging the problem so you know we received your report. Unless the problem is specific to you, we will not provide you with any additional information.

Sometimes, people interpret our inability to discuss the problem as blowing them off or that we're not going to do anything about it. This is not the case at all, it is merely an artifact of properly enforcing our Privacy Policy.

What does discussing problems have to do with our Privacy Policy? Although the simple answer is that our members' services are nobody's business but theirs until they tell us otherwise, the practical reason for this is a little more complicated.

Take a simple example: from time to time we get reports like, "I went to www.example.com and it was down! Fix it! You people suck! Your servers suck!" While we can generally say "Yes, the site is down," we do not go into why or when it might be back in response to such a report, which sometimes means the person goes away believing that not only do we suck, but we suck on purpose!

There are many reasons a web site might be offline. Maybe the person couldn't pay. If it was your site, would you want us discussing your billing status with anybody who asks? Probably not. But if we respond back to all "site down" complaints but only stonewall the ones where billing is involved, stonewalling just becomes a substitute for saying that it's a billing problem. So, to protect our members' privacy, we must treat everything as a private matter even if it makes us look like we're unwilling or unable to fix a problem.

(Those who are paying attention may have noticed the similarity to the old philosophical problem of encryption: if you only encrypt things when you have something to hide, using encryption is a clear sign that you have something to hide. For encryption to be maximally effective, you have to encrypt as much as you possibly can. Others may have had similar experiences trying to find out the condition of their hospitalized friend.)

So, if you are a member of the general public, please do not assume the worst of us because we won't discuss a problem you found. We ask that you remember that our Privacy Policy is a promise to protect our members all the time, not just when it's convenient for you or when it makes us look good. Your patience and understanding will be appreciated.

Of course this does not apply to our members and their own services. If you're having a problem with your NearlyFreeSpeech.NET services, you can always expect full disclosure regarding any issues and our full support in helping to resolve the problem.

How do I report a technical problem with a NearlyFreeSpeech.NET site?

Please feel free to report downed sites or other technical problems with NearlyFreeSpeech.NET services to support@NearlyFreeSpeech.NET even if you are not a NearlyFreeSpeech.NET member (or if you are, but not the owner of the services in question). We want to make sure our members' services stay working at all times, and we'll take any tip we can get when something might be amiss.

If you are a member and there's a problem with your services, contact us through our site if at all possible so we can get started right away and not have to goof around making sure it's you.

How do I contact the operator of a site you host?

Our strict privacy policy absolutely forbids us from providing information, including contact information, about the operators of sites we host in response to public inquiry. We take our commitment to our members' privacy very seriously.

Therefore, you should attempt to contact the site operator directly.

In many cases, the site operator has contact information on the site itself. That obviously represents the best way to reach them. If such information is not available but the site has a registered domain (i.e. the site name does not end in "nfshost.com"), you may wish to consult the public whois information for the domain, which is generally required to include accurate contact information.

If the site operator chooses not to include contact information on the site and is not using a registered domain, you may safely conclude that they do not wish to be contacted.

Please do not send us messages for site operators, as we will not forward them; we simply do not have the resources to act as a go-between messaging service between site operators and people who wish to contact them, nor is it our place to second-guess their decision about how they prefer to be contacted.

I am a journalist doing a story on a site you host. May I interview you?

It is our policy not to comment on member sites.

One of your members hosts something for me (or my/our organization). Will you give me access to it?

No.

We encounter a variety of situations where people contact us claiming to be the rightful owner of a web site or domain managed through our service. Such claims are typically accompanied by demands to allow the person to take over, transfer services, or take something down.

Our policies are extremely strict and are designed to provide maximum security to our members. At NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, memberships are held by individuals. The individual person we have on record as the holder of a membership is the only person authorized to access that membership or direct us to take any action related to services we provide under that membership

This puts people wanting access to a membership into two categories:

First, our members. Occasionally, a member will mislay their login credentials and be unable to access the system. We are able and happy to assist with a variety of such matters; they have their own FAQ entry with the specifics.

Second, everyone else. This includes customers, vendors, employees, employers, contractors, co-workers, relatives, friends of members, and current or former adjunct members, not just the general public. We apologize, but we are not able to assist you under any circumstances, unless expressly authorized to do so in advance by the relevant member, and even then only under a very limited set of circumstances (such as allowing a predesignated party to make deposits or renew domains in case of emergency). Any concern or conflict you have with the member hosting the services with us, including problems contacting them, must be resolved directly with that member or via channels other than us (e.g. the court system). There are absolutely no exceptions.

We apologize to anyone negatively affected by our hardline stance on protecting the privacy and security of our members. While this often seems harsh to people already having some other major problem not caused by this policy, we ask them to please keep in mind the absolute chaos that would result if we handed over web sites and domains to anyone who asked for them via email based on their say-so. Thank you for your understanding.

Note: If you contact us about accessing hosted services on a membership and you receive a link to this FAQ entry in response, then it is applicable to your inquiry. This is the case even if you believe (or wish) otherwise. It is not unusual for people who receive such a link to think that they or their circumstances are special and therefore this entry does not apply to them. That is not the case. If you want to obtain services hosted by a member of our service, and you are not that member, then you have several options:

  1. Obtaining the member's assistance is always the first and best choice.
  2. All disputes involving domain names must follow the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).
  3. If you know who the member is, sue him or her in a court of competent jurisdiction, win, and obtain a court order requiring the transfer of the assets of interest to you.
  4. If you do not know who the member is, file an in rem lawsuit against the content itself in a court of competent jurisdiction, make sure we are notified of the proceedings so we can attempt to notify the member, win, and obtain a court order requiring the transfer of the relevant assets to you.

Absent the above, complaining to us that we will not give you someone else's stuff is a complete waste of your time.

Why do you host really, really offensive content?

The simple answer is that we allow offensive content — whether that means offensive to you or offensive to us — because our Terms and Conditions of Service allow all legal content and it's not illegal to be offensive.

The real question, then, is: why we don't we change our Terms and Conditions of Service?

Well, everything from this FAQ entry and our Abuse page definitely applies. But when you get into websites that advocate or represent viewpoints that are particularly offensive and harmful, there are additional reasons.

Most importantly, websites that advocate or represent viewpoints are created by people who hold those views. If those people are willing to stand up and wave their hands and say "Hey! Here I am! Over here! Look at me!" we prefer to let them. To some extent, we are willing to host certain types of content to rub the world's nose in the fact that people who think that way still exist. And if that makes you uncomfortable, good, it's working.

In addition to that, we have very strict requirements to provide accurate contact information and we operate from a nation of laws. If someone who hosts a site on our service engages in criminal activity and the police come to us for help (with appropriate warrants/subpoenas/etc), we're very likely to be able to provide not only information, but technical assistance that may be essential to catching them. If we kick them off and they pop up twenty minutes later on some third-world ISP that hasn't put our level of thought into their policies, doesn't keep good records, and doesn't have the legal system we enjoy, that opportunity is lost.

Of course, the simplest reason is that it's not up to us to decide what the rest of the world should or shouldn't see. Bad news, it's not up to you either. Worse news, it's still true even when we agree. Which is probably most of the time.

Finally, censorship is always bad, for a variety of well understood reasons that we don't need to repeat here. But in the case of some types of content, it has special dangers. When you censor a web site based on the extreme or dangerous views of its creator(s), you haven't stopped those people from thinking that way. You haven't made them go away. You certainly haven't stopped whatever behavior those views induce when the people who hold them engage in when they're not posting on the Internet. What you've actually done is given yourself a false sense of accomplishment by closing your eyes, clapping your hands over your ears, and yelling "Lalala! I can't hear you!" at the top of your voice. Pretending a problem doesn't exist is not only not a solution, it makes real solutions harder to reach.

So that's why we host really, really offensive content. It's not because we like it. It's certainly not because we agree with it. And it's not because we profit from it; our MFFAM policy makes sure of that.

It's because we've spent a long time thinking about this very carefully and concluded that it's the best course of action. But that's our opinion. We respect your right to hold — and to express — a different view.

Please note: If you found this because of a specific site that falls into the offensive-but-legal category that you were hoping to censor, here is what you should do instead:

That's what we do. Unfortunately, all of those things do take more effort than demanding censorship. But they're both useful and effective, whereas censorship is neither. If you're upset by something you see online but not upset enough to do these sorts of things, then "don't look at it" is probably the best advice we can offer.

Of course, if you find something that's actually illegal rather than merely offensive, take appropriate action immediately.

How do I take over responsibility for something hosted by one of your members?

This process works a little differently here than it does with most other services. At NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, responsibility is divided into two distinct pieces: a membership and an account.

A membership represents an individual person. A person can only have one membership, which has their real, personal name on it. This membership cannot be shared or transferred.

The account is a separate piece under the membership that contains money, sites, domains, everything related to hosting for a specific entity (which might be the same person, or it might be a company, club, or organization.).

So, in order to take over responsibility for hosted services, following process:

  1. Make sure our service is a good fit for you. If it isn't, it's best to find that out beforehand.
  2. Create your own membership in your own name. If the other person tries to give you their username and password, don't let them! You must never access a membership belonging to someone else.
  3. Establish with the other person exactly what you are taking over. This could range from a whole account full of services down to a single site or domain name. The important thing is that you both agree on exactly what is to be transferred.
  4. If you are receiving anything other than a full account, you must create an account of your own and fund it.
  5. When you are ready, both you and the other person should submit identical "transfer" assistance requests in our user interface. (More detailed instructions are available in our Member FAQ.)
  6. We will take care of the rest.

If I think services you host are currently unavailable due to lack of funds; is there anything I can do?

Requests to manage hosted services or renew domains will not be honored unless they have been properly verified according to the authentication methods previously established by the membership owner. Generally this means that the individual member logs in to our system to take the appropriate action. However, there is one exception to this policy.

Transfers between member accounts that consist only of funds may be made with only the approval of the sending member. In other words, anyone with a funded NearlyFreeSpeech.NET membership can transfer funds to any other member's account simply by knowing the recipient's account number.

This means that the following conditions (and only these conditions) can be resolved by anyone:

Please note that our system does send out-of-funds and domain auto-renewal failure notifications to the member's contact email address, but that our privacy policy strictly prohibits us from discussing or disclosing information about the applicability of these conditions to any particular situation in the absence of a properly-verified request from the member. In other words, we cannot tell you whether or not the unavailability of services obtained through us is a result of lack of funds.

If you believe you are in this situation, you can take the following steps:

  1. Create a new NearlyFreeSpeech.NET membership.
  2. Make a payment sufficient to cover the expected costs.
  3. Use the "Transfer Funds Between Accounts" action on the Accounts tab.
  4. Enter the recipient member's account number as the Destination Account.
  5. Select the "To another member's account" transfer type.
  6. Enter a transfer amount sufficient to cover the expected costs.
  7. Select the "Transfer Funds" button.

Please keep in mind that although hosted services typically come back online within a few minutes if lack of funds was the problem, domain registrations can take 24-48 hours to start working again if they were expired at the time of renewal.

If you do not know the member's 12-digit account number, you will not be able to use the process above. Instead, you will have to open a free "Transfer" assistance request providing a site or domain name sufficient for us to identify the recipient and specifying the amount of funds you wish to send. This is a manual process that can take significantly longer to complete, so please use the automated process above if it all possible.

The following additional information applies only to individuals who are unable to access their own membership.

Under ordinary circumstances, our Terms & Conditions of Service impose a strict limitation of one membership per individual, for good reasons. Under ordinary circumstances, it is strongly preferable to complete the appropriate recovery process to regain access to your membership. We provide extensive recovery options for a lost username or password, a lost email address, or a lost 2-factor device. But under ordinary circumstances, a member just logs in to our site and does whatever they need to do, and they do not wind up reading this.

If extraordinary (but temporary) circumstances exist — like if a member is temporarily unable to log in to their regular membership because they are traveling and don't have needed info to access or recover it — where violating the letter of the one-membership-per-person policy by creating a second membership for the sole purpose of depositing funds into the first will mitigate a larger harm, we allow it.

However the "temporary" qualification of those extraordinary circumstances is very important and bears close scrutiny. Taking this action is only a good idea if that applies. In other situations, taking this action may not mitigate a larger harm, they may exacerbate it.

Although it is extremely rare and our system takes many precautions to prevent it, it is remotely possible for a member to, through a sufficiently large combination of consecutive instances of bad judgement and/or dishonesty, engineer a situation where they have set security protocols to verify their identity that they subsequently they have no way to meet. In such cases, it is very likely to be preferable to allow services to be deleted, and then pursue re-obtaining them once they are removed from the inaccessible membership. Adding funds through this process may only serve to increase the delay before that happens.