Sherman Austin has not been charged with breaking any laws, but that hasn't stopped two of the biggest Internet service providers (ISPs) from running the California teenager off their property for his anarchist views.
Last month, after incarcerating Austin, 18, for more than a week, federal prosecutors decided not to file charges against Austin for publishing bomb-making information at his site Raisethefist.com and hacking into several sites to post revolutionary calls to arms.
In recent days, however, Austin's anti-government message apparently set off content radars at Yahoo's Groups service.
A Yahoo representative would not comment on why Raisethefist, an online message board that had 58 members, disappeared from the service without notice last week.
Yahoo "honors the spirit of the First Amendment and free speech," according to spokeswoman Mary Osako, but she noted that Yahoo's terms of service prohibit posting "content that incites violence."
In late December, Austin's account with America Online was canceled by the online service, according to a spokesperson for the FBI. The official said AOL took the action on its own and not at the request of the FBI.
Despite AOL's actions, Austin still uses the company's AOL Instant Messenger service, switching nicknames frequently.
On Jan. 24, heavily armed federal agents stormed the home where Austin lives with his mother in suburban Los Angeles and confiscated computer equipment used to operate his Web site.
After being offline for several weeks, Raisethefist.com has reappeared on the Web and is now being hosted by Seattle-based Hypodermic.net on a server co-located at a facility run by Speakeasy Network.
A graphic on the front page of Austin's site today reads "Silence is defeat."
Inside, Raisethefist.com features articles about current domestic and international political events, including an editorial entitled "Battle Plan" that discussed the need to build a "peoples army."
One section of the site offers stickers with slogans including "Arm The Poor" and "National Security Is The Threat."
Pages formerly at Raisethefist.com that described how to make crude bombs out of match heads, fertilizer, and other common ingredients were not readily apparent.
According to section six of the Yahoo terms of service, users may not post content that is "unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable."
A Web page describing Hypodermic's terms of service was shorter but similar in some respects.
According to the Hypodermic.net document, the free hosting company's administrators "are committed to providing our users with a vehicle for free speech, however bigotry of any kind is not tolerated. If you run a website that embraces hatred, don't be surprised if you find it vanished from our server."
Raise The Fist is at http://www.raisethefist.com .
Yahoo Groups is at http://groups.yahoo.com .
Reported by Newsbytes, http://www.newsbytes.com .
Reposted 22:56 CST
(20020307/WIRES TOP, ONLINE, LEGAL, PC/FBI/PHOTO)
© 2002 The Washington Post Company