Frequently Asked Questions

The NearlyFreeSpeech.NET FAQ (*)

Policy (*)

What's the catch?

We're doing the best job we can to ensure that there is no catch. But of course, there's always fine print. Ours is a pay-for-what-you-use infrastructure, and in order to convey your deposits into your account and then keep track of them, we have to maintain our billing infrastructure, do our accounting, file our taxes, and deal with payment compliance issues and fraud. All that adds up, so we have to charge you a small deposit fee.

We do not profit from deposit fees.

The base deposit fee is exactly the same for all members and payment methods. However, before charging you this fee, we offset it as much as we can by applying a variable instant rebate. This helps ensure that small deposits remain cost-effective and helps us tweak the system to make sure deposit fees are distributed fairly without overcharging anyone.

If the deposit fee and instant rebate system seems unnecessarily complicated, it is and we apologize. It is unfortunately necessary in order to provide you with the best possible pricing without running afoul of the conditions imposed upon us by our payment processors. We're constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce (or simplify!) these administrative costs, because they don't help us and they don't help you.

What payment methods do you accept for account deposits?

We currently accept these forms of payment:

Credit card and PayPal are processed immediately. Mail-in deposits take longer.

Some prepaid cards work with our service and some do not. Whether an individual brand of prepaid card will work is at the discretion of the card issuer, not us, so although some do work, we don't recommend using them.

We do not accept cash payments for the simple reason that cash sent through the mail all-too-frequently does not reach its destination. Even the US Postal Service acknowledges this and officially discourages the practice. You may use cash to obtain money orders from the United States Postal Service, Western Union, and many other vendors in the United States. Internationally, we recommend the use of American Express worldwide money orders denominated in US Dollars.

We do not accept any forms of payment not listed here.

If you wish to pay us anonymously, see this FAQ entry for more information.

What is your refund policy?

A member may easily request cancelation of their service at any time from the Profile tab in our member interface.

When a membership is canceled, we will return the prepaid balance remaining in your account—all of it.* Since we provide a pay-as-you-go service (for almost everything but domain registration and privacy), you're only responsible for the cost of services we have already provided. There's no "OK, but your cancellation won't be effective until the beginning of the next billing cycle." or "OK, we'll cancel you right now, but you agreed to pay for a zillion years of hosting in advance, so you don't get a refund." We'll process your cancellation request as soon as possible and (in most cases) refund your remaining balance at that point.

If you try our service and figure out the same day (by 9 PM US Eastern time) that it is not right for you, let us know immediately. Sometimes, but not always, we can void your transaction so that it will be as if you were never even charged. We can't promise that, but if you let us know fast enough, we will do our best for you.

There are rare cases where funds may be nonrefundable:

We cannot issue a partial refund of your prepaid balance. We can only issue a refund in conjunction with the close of your membership, and it will be for the full remaining balance unless you specify otherwise.

Also, ICANN does not allow registered domains to be abandoned. If you have any domains registered through us, you must transfer them to another person or registrar before requesting cancellation. (Fees paid for domain registration are typically nonrefundable.)

*If we have to mail you a check, there will be a small charge deducted from your balance first, and we won't issue a refund by check for a balance less than the charge.

This is intended to be a thorough summary, but please see our Terms and Conditions of Service for complete details.

What if I want to host unpopular or controversial content?

Please review our Terms and Conditions of Service.

Our primary requirements in this area are as follows:

If you have questions about whether your proposed site is legal, you need to consult an attorney. Under no circumstances can we give a legal opinion or advice, nor can we make binding statements about hypothetical sites and circumstances.

*You must obey all applicable local laws unless you get our prior express consent in writing. We do provide anonymous hosting of content that violates local government censorship laws at our sole discretion in cases outside the United States where we feel government censorship is contrary to the cause of freedom.

If you have questions about our willingness to put up with controversial or unpopular sites that are nonetheless legal, we invite you to review our Abuse @ NearlyFreeSpeech.NET page.

What happens if my account runs completely out of funds?

Your services will be automatically disabled. As soon as you add more, it'll come back, but that can take a few minutes and that often feels like the longest few minutes of your life, so we recommend using and customizing the account balance warning system (which supports both email and SMS) to keep track of things before they go that far.

If you don't add more funds right away, things will hang around for at least 30 days. You can add more funds at any point during that period and get it all back.

If you haven't added funds after the 30 days, we'll start cleaning things up. Services paid for by that account, including all hosted content, will be removed. If you don't have any registered domains on that account, the account will be removed a few days later.

If 30 days is not a long enough grace period, we offer a feature called "suspended animation" that can help you extend the retention of your content when your balance runs low. That setting can be enabled and managed from the "Suspended Animation Threshold " line of the Account Information box on the page for your account under the Accounts tab.

If you do have one or more registered domains, they will persist until they complete the expiration/deletion process or are transferred elsewhere. That will keep the relevant account and your membership open so that you can continue to manage them.

You can also view (and configure) how long your membership is retained after your last account expires in the "Retention Time" line of the "Details" box on the Profile tab. As long as your membership continues to exist, you can request that we attempt to recover deleted content. (A fee applies for this service.) Recoveries of this type are generally successful if requested within several months of deletion.

Once your membership is deleted, however, that's it.

What is customer service like for subscription members?

In addition to all of the options available to baseline members, people who have opted in to subscription membership are eligible for individual private support via email and our ticket system. Our individual private support option is informed by our own support experiences:

What is customer service like for baseline members?

Baseline membership reflects that our do-it-yourself service is designed to be used without individual support. Consequently, support options are limited, but typically unnecessary.

Most of the information members need is maintained in a detailed technical FAQ (available here if you are not yet a member).

When members need a little more help, they generally turn to our community support options. We have a member forum populated by some very, very smart people (including our staff), and members can view and contribute to a wiki that provides a rich variety of perspectives on tips, tricks, and how to get various things to work.

We also offer a specialized type of support, called assistance requests, for specific predefined actions that you need us to perform on your behalf. These are very limited in scope, highly automated, and are often designed to smooth over features that don't have a UI in our control panel, because they are specialized or rarely used. Baseline members also have the ability to report perceived problems with the system, although that channel is one-way; it is not a way to obtain help or support.

These options are sufficient for almost all of our members. Those looking for more can evaluate whether the individual support option included with subscription membership meets their needs.

What if my site uses less than $0.01 of bandwidth in a month?

The same thing that happens if your site uses less than $0.01 in a day, in a week, or in a year: it keeps going until it does.

We aren't really interested in months. The amount of bandwidth you use is carried over as long as it takes until you accumulate a penny's worth of usage, even if that takes a month or more.

Yes, we are happy to host sites like this.

Do you allow adult content?


See the CONTENT section of our Terms and Conditions of Service for specifics.

Do I get interest on my deposit?

No. The costs of such a program would be more than the actual interest produced. (Especially these days where interest earned is vanishingly small.)

We periodically reevaluate this situation, because we think a web account that runs forever purely off of its own interest is a pretty cool idea.

Can I get a credit if your service goes down?

No, that would be silly. Since we bill primarily based on resource usage, if most of our services go down, you'll never be charged for them in the first place! We charge you primarily based on the bandwidth and resources you use. If the service is down... well, you aren't using much bandwidth or resources!

This business model has another profound consequence. In the event of a service failure, our revenue craters on the spot until it is fixed. The technical term for that is "motivation." For this reason, we do not offer any service level agreements or uptime guarantees other than "you will get the very best we have to offer."

By way of disclaimer, the above applies only to bandwidth and resource charges. Storage and other charges have always continued to apply during network outages. We don't know what we would do if we ever had a storage outage that resulted in data loss, since it's never happened. If it ever does, we'll try to do the right thing.

What's the difference between an 'account' and a 'membership?'

A "membership" represents you as an individual person (not a company, group, club, or organization). It's how you identify yourself to us, and how you access our services. If you're a US worker, it's like your social security number except, you know, less social and more secure. And, in most cases, less number-y.

An "account" is how you pay for our services. It contains the funds that you use to purchase hosting. You'll need at least one. You may create more, if you want, but you don't have to. Accounts also hold hosting-related assets, like web sites, domains, and database processes. Just as one membership can have several accounts, one account can fund several different assets.

Accounts also contain contact information about their owners, which may or may not be the member who manages the account. A web designer managing an account for a client would be a good example of a case where the member who manages the account is not the owner. Similarly, a company might own an account, even though it's managed from the company's webmaster's membership. Keep in mind that from our perspective, regardless of account ownership, the member is the only representative of the owner authorized to access the account. (There's no point in having any other policy, since the member can change the account's contact information at any time.)

People use accounts to group related stuff together, to separate business and personal expenses, or to keep track of multiple clients. All sorts of reasons. Other people are perfectly happy to jam everything into one account and have only one balance to keep track of.

It's a little like a bank. You are one person, but you might have two savings accounts: one for college, and one for "rainy days." The bank (if they know you at all these days) knows that you are just one person, and you have your social security number (membership) to prove it.

Unlike accounts, you may not have more than one membership. That would be like opening an account at your bank, then going out to your car, putting on a fake moustache, and going back in to open a second account.* Even if you could, why? Likewise, you cannot go into the bank, give them someone else's social security number, and open an account in their name.** So please don't open memberships for other people here.

*At least, we assume it's like that, but we've never actually tried it. Our bank has a pretty good sense of humor, but why push our luck?

**Sense of humor or not, we're pretty sure that's a felony.

If I use your web hosting, will you put banners or ads onto my site?

No, of course not. That wouldn't really be your site.

Your site will have on it exactly what you put there, and nothing else.

Naturally, if you want to put banners or ads on your site, you're welcome to do so, what with it being your site and all.

Do you impose CPU limits?

Yes. CGI processes and individual ssh commands are limited to two to five minutes of CPU time, and PHP requests are limited to three minutes of wall-clock time by default.

These restrictions are designed to catch runaway processes, not to interfere with ordinary usage. "Stock" web applications, specifically including phpBB and WordPress, simply do not use enough resources to encounter these limits. Who would wait three minutes for a web page to load anyway?

If you have a need for longer-running processes (e.g. for non-interactive use), there is usually a way to make that work or adjust our system settings to accommodate it.

Although we do not impose an overall specific per-site CPU limit, ours is a shared hosting service. We try to accommodate individual needs, particularly on plans where you pay for the resources you use, but we do reserve that right (and responsibility) to limit anything that causes disruption to others. If you have a site on one of our older plans that does not include a resource-billing component, attempts to use large amounts of resources are more likely to encounter limits depending on total available resources.

May I send email from a website hosted at NearlyFreeSpeech.NET?

Yes, but. Because of the ever-present threat of spam, we monitor email usage very closely. Therefore, you should expect an amount of scrutiny directly proportional to the volume of email you send.

It is also very important to be aware of potential vulnerabilities introduced by email-enabled web pages. In particular, generic PHP "feedback" form scripts have proven to be very popular targets for spammers, who can find and exploit them automatically. You should be extremely cautious, and make sure that any email-enabled web sites you create are safe from exploit.

We will hold you responsible for email activity caused by your site, whether you intended to allow it or not. If a spammer exploits a script on your site to send spam, we will have to clean up the mess. At a minimum, that will probably entail temporarily disabling your site, and it may result in additional charges for you.

What if my site gets a DMCA complaint?

Please be aware that when we address questions of this nature, we cannot speak to hypothetical situations, nor can we guess what we would have done in a situation where we were not involved. Nor we can offer you legal advice.

In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) defines the process by which a copyright holder can request that material be removed. In such cases, a provider is legally obligated to remove the allegedly infringing material without judging the merits of the claim. It is essentially done on the copyright holder's sworn say-so.

However, the DMCA also governs the process for restoring material, and that process is similarly rubber-stamp on the part of the service provider. Once that's done, it becomes a matter for the courts, not the service provider.

In this regard, the DMCA is a good law for us and for you. (Although it can and does suck in many areas, this isn't one of them.) The DMCA is, in part, supposed to protect you from capricious decisions made by the service provider based on some subset of the facts. At no point does or should an Internet service provider investigate or make judgment calls about complex copyright law and questions of what might be infringing. (We specialize in server processes, not process servers.) The DMCA gives us (and you) a certain (non-perfect) confidence that the copyright owner's claim has at least some legitimacy, and provides decent protection (once you get over the initial take-down hurdle) against the use of false claims of copyright infringement to suppress legitimate content.

If you wish to host a controversial site in the US, it behooves you to know the law, particularly this one, and how to use it to your advantage in the event of a dispute. You should also be prepared for a downtime of some or all "allegedly infringing" material for a couple of weeks if the copyright owner wants to fight.

We adhere to the entire law very closely. We do not generally pull the plug on an entire site if, for example, someone claims that a single graphic is infringing. We do our best to remove only the content that the copyright owner specifically identifies as allegedly infringing -- usually by allowing you to handle it yourself unless you decline or fail to do so. We allow and encourage the use of the "putback notification" process when material is incorrectly identified as infringing. But we do not automatically terminate a member's service merely for receiving a complaint alleging infringement. (However, actually infringing someone's copyright does violate our TACOS and will generally result in immediate termination.)

Keep in mind that while we aren't lawyers, neither are we idiots. We can tell the difference between people harassing our members via the DMCA and cases where our service is genuinely being misused, and we can adjust our attitude accordingly. Fortunately, both of these cases are very rare.

Do you provide anonymous hosting?

In most cases, we do not allow our members to remain anonymous to us.

In general, the concern is that information not be disclosed to third parties. Our industry-leading privacy policy reflects our commitment not to let that happen. Therefore, from our perspective, there are very few legitimate reasons why a member would need to conceal his or her identity from us. Most people who request anonymous hosting are attempting to perpetrate fraud (on us or on the public) or wish to escape accountability for their actions.

At NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, we believe that with great power comes great responsibility, so we take a dim view of such behavior. For that reason, our TACOS require our members to provide complete and correct contact information, and requests for anonymous hosting are typically denied.

However, we do make one important exception. If you live outside the United States and can demonstrate that the site you wish to host would put you at significant, legitimate risk of retaliation from a government with a documented track record of reprisal against people who speak out against it, we may be able to help. Anonymous hosting is serious business; it can be one component of a coordinated plan to protect you and your family from torture and murder. It's absolutely not an option you can use to dodge lawsuits or unpopularity arising from hosted material.

If you feel you need this level of protection, please contact us, taking appropriate privacy precautions with respect to your correspondence. Be sure to explain where you live, what you want to host, and why you feel hosting the material anonymously is the only way to guarantee your safety. Be very specific; you will need to explain your situation in enough detail so we can make an informed decision. We may, in our sole discretion, decide to waive the contact information requirement in exchange for periodic reviews of your site content by NearlyFreeSpeech.NET personnel to verify that your usage of the service is consistent with your claims. Please be aware that even if we approve your request, paying anonymously is extremely difficult.

We are not able to provide anonymous hosting to residents of the United States under any circumstances.

Please don't attempt to circumvent our restrictions on anonymous hosting by using fake contact information. Sooner or later we'll figure it out and terminate your membership. And, since you gave us fake information, we won't even be able to give you a refund.

Can I use my NearlyFreeSpeech.NET site to accept credit cards?

Not directly. We are a shared hosting provider. The credit card issuers impose security requirements on the acceptance of credit cards that prevent you from accepting or storing credit card information on any shared server unless very specific criteria ("PCI DSS requirement A.1") exist and have been audited. We have not been audited for compliance, as it is our opinion that the criteria can only be met by VPS-type services, which we are not.

Therefore in order to accept credit cards and most other payments, you will need to use a third-party secure checkout service. Examples that are known to work include Stripe, Authorize.Net and PayPal.

What types of sites should not be hosted on your service?

These types of sites will be disabled without notice or warning upon discovery:

These types of sites will be shut down without notice or warning the first time an unresolved issue is brought to our attention:

IRC bots, proxies, and BitTorrent trackers

These sites will be abused within minutes of discovery, and discovery is pretty much automated. It saves time to say "no" up front rather than wait and shut it down after a problem.

There aren't any circumstances where an IRC proxy or bot is allowable, and you will find most common IRC ports firewalled on our network.

If you need to set up a private web proxy on your site for your personal use that is appropriately access-limited, that is no problem as long as your use complies with our Terms & Conditions of Service. (This does not include using our SSH server as a Socks or HTTP proxy. Doing so is strictly prohibited.)

URL shorteners

URL shorteners are, unfortunately, a lot more fun to write than they are to maintain. If you want to set up a URL shortener for your personal use, that's fine. If you let the general public submit URLs to it, expect us to shut it down the first time it gets exploited. (And it will get exploited.)

Properly run URL shorteners aren't successful because they have the shortest or cleverest URL; they're successful because they have a team of people working 24x365, proactively and reactively, to prevent and mitigate abuse. If you have such a team and want to run a public URL shortener on our service, please contact us for special arrangements. If you don't have such a team, you'll have to find another host that's less concerned about the Internet's welfare.

"Unmoderated" sites

You are responsible for your site's content. If you allow the Internet public to post content to your site, that's on you. If someone posts content to your site that violates our Terms & Conditions of Service, you have violated our Terms & Conditions of Service. You are the person we will hold accountable.

Sites typically avoid this through steps like verified user registration, holding some or all posts for approval, automated content scanning (e.g., PhotoDNA), and human moderators.

Like URL shorteners, successful sites that eschew one or more of those precautions are successful because they have an aggressive moderation team large enough to provide 24x365 coverage. Like with URL shorteners, if you have such a team and want to run this type of site, please contact us for special arrangements. If you want to run such a site without adequate moderation, you'll need to do so elsewhere.

These policies don't mean you can't run sites that get any complaints or are ever abused by others. They mean that we are not your content moderators. If you run this type of site and we get a complaint about prohibited content on your site, we want to see that you have already taken care of it by the time we investigate.

How do I sign up for my company/club/organization?

Memberships represent individual people. (The law calls this "a natural person." At NearlyFreeSpeech.NET at least, corporations are not people.) A company, club, or organization (we'll go with "company" for the rest of this FAQ entry, but it applies just as well to clubs, organizations, or other types of groups) has no arms, fingers, and eyes and cannot read our Terms and Conditions of Service or complete our signup form.

If you're signing up to host stuff for any kind of organization in which you're not the sole participant, you still have to create your membership as yourself, at which point you, personally, agree to adhere to our Terms and Conditions of Service. This is not too different from opening a company bank account; you still have to give them your own ID and sign the signature card and checks with your own name, not "President" or "Company Name, Inc."

It is very important to understand that once you create a membership for yourself, it's yours. (To reiterate the above, your membership represents you as an individual.) Although you can cancel your membership, or it can expire if you don't have any accounts or services for awhile, you can never give it away, nor ever let anyone else access it, just like you can't give away your personhood, nor allow other people to pretend to be you. This means we do not allow multiple people to simultaneously manage one membership. We are simply not equipped to handle disputes where multiple people are claiming to be in charge and giving us conflicting instructions. There must always be one person with the final say, and that is the person who, in the event of a dispute, can produce photo ID matching the name on the membership.

After you create your membership, using your own name, you will then have the opportunity to create an account. (Actually you can use your membership to create as many accounts as you want, just like you can have multiple accounts at the same bank.) This is the step where, as the representative of a company, you should be very cautious. You should fill out the account contact information to reflect that of the company, not yourself. This indicates that while you manage the account, the company owns it.

After you fund the company's account, you will be able to set up whatever funds, sites, domains, and other services we offer that the company needs. All of those things attach to the account to make up a neat little package of related stuff. That becomes important if you ever need to transfer control to someone else, because it makes that very easy.

If you need to share responsibility for services here with other people from your company, that is also easily done. Other people from the company can set up memberships of their own. Then, you can share access to a single site or a whole account with them.

If/when the day comes that you need to hand over management of the company's stuff to someone else, it's a very straightforward process. The person taking over simply creates a membership for themselves (again, as an individual, in their own name), at which point they read and agree to our Terms and Conditions of Service. (That part is really, really important.) Then, the company's account has a 12-digit account number like A1B2-C3D4E5F6 you can use to identify it. Give the other person that number, and then each of you should send a free assistance request to us through the member interface asking to move the company's account from the old manager's membership to the new one. The account, and all the sites/domains/databases it contains get moved over in one easy step. It's very easy to do, and can be handled in a few minutes without any downtime or interruption of service. If you have other stuff hosted in a separate account on the same membership, it won't be affected.

Will you honor a court order requiring the takedown of my site?

Usually. However, we do handle these issues on a case-by-case basis, considering several important factors.

First, we look at who is the target of the court order. Some court orders target you as the site operator, and some target your hosting provider.

If a court orders us to take the material down and that court has jurisdiction over us, the material comes down. We uphold United States law at all times, end of story. If the court does not have jurisdiction over us, we typically request that the order be domesticated before implementing it.

If a court orders you to take the material down, it's a bit more complicated. We will then consider whether the court has jurisdiction over you due to citizenship or residency. If they do, we will typically prohibit you from using our service to violate the court order. If there's a court order against your content, you need to fight the order, not try to use the Internet to evade it.

Some countries' legal systems claim that their courts can exercise jurisdiction over any content visible inside that country, regardless of where it is hosted. We repudiate that legal theory. We do not accept orders from courts that cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over us or you unless they have been properly domesticated. US law frequently bars the domestication of such orders. (However, if Atlantis instead requires all Atlantean ISPs to block access to your site, that is not something we're likely to be able to help with.)

We will also consider the free speech implications of the order. However, many people don't understand how limited this is. Typically, we will only consider free speech-based arguments when the site is about the government issuing the court order. I.e., we would be very likely to disregard a court order from Atlantis requiring the removal of content critical of the government of Atlantis. We would be significantly less likely to disregard a court order from Atlantis requiring you to remove material that the Atlantis court found defamatory of an Atlantis citizen if you are also an Atlantis citizen or resident. Using our service is not a way to opt out of your country's laws.

While we will consider whether a foreign court order is a travesty of justice, it is one of the least influential factors. It rarely comes into play.

One factor we do not consider at all is your opinion. We are not interested in how justified you feel your actions are, how messed up your country's laws are, how easy/unfair/one-sided you feel it is to get such an order in your country, what an ignorant jerk you think the judge was, or how sure you are that they're all out to get you. If you agreed with the order and the process, you'd take the material down yourself; we'd never hear about it. Beyond that, your opinion ceases to have any probative value. Sorry if that's hard to hear.

When we deal with court orders from your jurisdiction, and you are outside the US, it is often helpful for you to make your attorney available to us (at your expense) to answer questions about the matter. If you got a court order issued against you in your own country, but you don't have qualified legal representation, it will be somewhat more difficult for us to take you seriously.

To reiterate the most important statement at the top, we handle all situations on a case-by-case basis. We will not guarantee any specific response, nor will we even guarantee that we will handle all cases as described here. However, we have been at this for many years. The guidelines above have served our goal of staunchly defending freedom of expression without letting the Internet collapse into total anarchy.

In all cases, the indemnification provisions of our Terms and Conditions of Service require you to pay any legal expenses we incur in handling or responding to court orders related to your services with us.

Can I use your ssh server as a web/SOCKS proxy?

No. We are entirely focused on web hosting and our Terms and Conditions of Service expressly forbid the use of our ssh server for any purpose other than maintaining content hosted here. That prohibition definitely includes using our ssh server as any kind of web or SOCKS proxy for accessing the Internet.

We try to run an open system that provides our members with the most powerful tools for managing their content. As a result, we allow outbound network connections from the ssh server for people who need to move content from/to elsewhere, and we allow ssh port forwarding so people can access their MySQL processes from offsite and so that they can securely access their own sites hosted here.

However, we can and do check for outbound network connections that use our ssh subsystem as a proxy, and our system automatically kills them. Furthermore, we may be forced to take appropriate action if we observe repeated or blatant attempts to misuse our system in this way, including but not limited to revoking ssh access (which will require you to use our paid support to regain) or, in extreme cases, terminating a membership.

What is supplemental verification?

Our Terms and Conditions of Service require that accurate contact information is provided for all memberships; free speech is a responsibility as well as a right and part of that responsibility is that you may be held accountable for what you say. Supplemental verification is any step we take to verify your contact information above and beyond our usual policy of trusting what you enter when you sign up for and use our service.

There is a huge correlation between people who provide fake contact info and problems like payment fraud and illegal content. So if during the ordinary course of providing service we find a clear and specific reason to question whether accurate information has been provided, then we get into supplemental verification. To give an extreme example, if you tell us you're John Smith from Ontario, Canada, but pay with Bob Jones' credit card with a billing address in California, and you're logging in from Nigeria, we're probably going to give that a second look.

Depending on the situation, we may inquire about some or all observed discrepancies. That's usually enough to take care of it. In a handful of very rare cases -- about 0.01% of members -- we wind up asking for ID. In those extreme cases, generally any government-issued ID, like a driver's license or passport, is suitable for that purpose, but that comes up so rarely that we're very flexible in handling it on a case-by-case basis.

Typically any problem in this area is easily resolved. If not, it's for one of two reasons. Most of the time the membership was blatant fraud (stolen credit card, illegal content, etc). But sometimes the person involved says something to the effect of "I know your policy, but I don't agree with it, so I won't follow it." The nature of our Terms and Conditions of Service is that if someone refuses to abide by the Terms and Conditions, we will refuse to provide the Services, so that is not an ideological position that is compatible with use of our hosting. Importantly, it may also impair the ability to get a refund. (So if you're thinking about signing up with fake contact information, please don't. It'll eventually end in tears. Yours.)

Supplemental verification is also triggered anytime someone claims they are a member of our service but has neither the login information nor access to the contact email address. In those cases, we skip straight to asking for ID to establish the rightful member. (And naturally anyone who provided fake contact info and winds up in that situation is pretty much out of luck.)

It's also worth remembering that we also have an industry-leading privacy policy that protects contact information from disclosure without a legal requirement to do so, and that we may also offer anonymous hosting with advance written permission in certain very rare cases where personal safety is an issue.

What will you do if I send you email instructing you to do something to my membership?


We cannot process any instructions with respect to a membership via email. This includes, but is not limited to, requests to cancel, to accept payments, to register, renew, or transfer domains, to disable content, or to remove anything.

Email is not secure. Anyone who knows your email address can send an email that appears to be from you. Some people don't even bother using your email address when pretending to be you. We routinely receive emailed requests to do stuff that clearly aren't from the member. But the scary ones are the ones that look like they are from the member but turn out not to be.

Even when we're pretty sure you're you and we believe there would be little risk in doing so, we cannot process an email request. After all, we could be wrong. And even if we're not, we also need to take reasonable steps to protect not only you, but also ourselves.

So, on our system, the way you prove you're you is to log in with your member login name and password (and, optionally, a two-factor device).

If you need help logging on, check out the Login section of our FAQ.

If you need our help with something else, the best way to obtain it is via the support tab of our member site.

If you have a subscription membership, you can submit requests via email if you want, but you'll still have to click a link, log in, and confirm that the message really came from you. (Which basically copies it into our support system as if you had submitted it from our site.) That does introduce delays, so you'll generally get faster response if you send such requests directly from the support tab. Please note the option for individual email-based support is only available to subscription members. Baseline members should check the support tab for community support and self-support options.

Is anything recoverable from a membership that has been closed?

No. Once a membership has been closed, nothing can be recovered.

The permanent deletion of services, content, and account information is an important part of the implementation of our privacy policy, designed to let former customers be confident that they haven't left hidden copies of their data behind.

Closing a membership also entails removing enough of your personal information that even if recovery were possible, we would have no way of proving you are the right person to recover it for.

As such, once a membership is closed it is permanently gone and any associated information, content, domains, or other services cannot be recovered. (You are, of course, welcome and encouraged to re-create things from your own backups if you choose to set up a new membership with us.)

This applies regardless of whether the membership was closed by request, due to running out of funds for an extended period of time, or for violation of our Terms & Conditions of Service.

What is the "MFFAM" policy?

Because we believe in free speech, we host a small amount of offensive content. Some days, that's really hard to do. There are views expressed using our service that we find personally repugnant. (Although we don't host as much of that type of content as one might expect, given our extremely broad Terms & Conditions of Service. The simple fact is that our service is for smart people, which disproportionately excludes people who hold those types of views.)

Nonetheless, our content policy does occasionally put us in a position of accepting money to host sites we find abhorrent. But we have no interest in profiting from sites like that. For that reason, since our founding in 2002, we have what we have more recently started calling the MFFAM policy: Morons Funding the Fight Against Morons.

When we find a repugnant site on our service, we mark the account. We receive reports about all payments to such accounts, and we take a portion of that money larger than the amount of estimated profit and we donate it to the best organization we can find. The best organization in any given case meets two criteria:

  1. The recipient organization does share our values.
  2. The recipient organization is as opposite (and hopefully as offensive) as possible to the site operator that funded the donation.

Examples of organizations that have received funding over the years include the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, local chapters of the NAACP, the National Bail Fund Network, the American Immigration Council, the Trevor Project, and others.

This policy isn't perfect by any means, but neither is the world we live in. MFFAM does let us help the organizations that we hope will eventually get us closer to that perfect world. It helps the people who operate repugnant sites understand that they are here because we tolerate them... barely... not because we endorse them or their views. It also does a pretty decent job of further thinning out the number of such sites, as a fair number of people who run them only believe in free speech when they're the ones talking.