A month or more ago, a friend posted a link to a socially and environmentally responsible web host. (Thanks Phoenix!) I held on to that link, thinking that if I sold anything at SEAF, I would use that money to upgrade to a real host (as opposed to the Lycos people, who don't allow nudity of any kind, and may pull my site at any time). I checked into ThinkHost, and found them to be just as advertised. They use renewable wind/solar power for all of their servers, host non-profits for free, and are generally a pretty cool company. So when I got the check from SEAF, I was all set to switch over. I had a few questions for them about the site migration process, and they were totally awesome about answering my questions. Someone got back to me the same day for each question, they responded directly to each question I had, and explained things in such a way that I could mostly understand it. (I still don't know what wget software is, but I know that they're going to use it to copy over the whole structure of my website for me, at no additional charge, so I don't really have to do much of anything.) I was totally impressed with every interaction I had with them.
So I'm sitting there with my credit card, about to click on the Create Account button, when I decide, what the heck, maybe I'll actually read the Terms of Service for once. So I scan through it, and see that they have a policy barring any "adult content". Argh! But I had been so impressed with everything else about the company that I thought it was worth sending them an e-mail and asking them if they had some more specific guidelines for what constitutes adult content. Obviously, I'm not interested in creating a porn site, I just want to display art, some of which is nude. So I wanted to know how they were making a distinction between the two.
Once again, I've been totally impressed. The tech support person who got my question forwarded it immediately to the General Manager. His name is Michael, and we had quite an interesting discussion about where one draws the line between art and porn. While he agreed that my site is definitely art, he wasn't sure how to make a specific guideline by which I could be sure I wasn't going to get booted off their servers. We discussed for about a week. He had meetings with the rest of the admin at ThinkHost. We discussed some more. Throughout the process, I was really impressed that he was willing to even engage the question at all. Most folks would simply have said, "that's the rule, nothing we can do about it". He came up with a proposal that allowed nudity, but banned "depictions of sex acts". I responded that I think "sex act" is a pretty fuzzy guideline. Does there have to be more than one person in the picture for it to be a sex act? How about if there are two people in the picture but they're fully clothed in bed together? How about if there are two naked people in bed together, but they aren't touching each other? How about if all you can see is two people's faces, but one of them sort-of "looks like" they might be experiencing some sort of sexual gratification? How about a picture of a particularly suggestive flower, with a drop of nectar hanging off one of the petals, being penetrated by a hummingbird beak?
We discussed some more, he met with the rest of the admin some more, and finally responded with this e-mail:
Hi again DeAnna, You've opened a real can of worms for us here – and we welcome it as it's given us the opportunity to better define where we stand (as a company) on these issues :).
The various points you've raised have seen us discuss the issue further.
Basically it boils down to this:
a) We wish to be seen as supporters of freedom of speech and expression.
b) What constitutes pornography is often in the eye of the beholder. What may be art to some may be "adult content" to others and vice versa.
c) Pornography is not necessarily illegal.
d) We are not lawyers or censors, nor do we wish to be.
Given that, we've made some changes to our Terms of service, removing the line:
"Any site with adult-oriented content, including but not limited to any pornographic or sexually explicit material."
/snip for length and clarity/
So, in a nutshell, we are saying that we would be pleased to host your site. You will need to be familiar with the law in relation to your own content and observe those laws. We'll only act if it's pointed out to us that your content breaks any relevant laws or if your site is contravening any other clause in our Terms of Service."
So, how many web hosts do you know that are actually willing to *change their Terms of Service* based on a request from a prospective customer. Not to mention all the other awesome things about them. I highly recommend them, if you have any need for a webhost. Besides all the generally cool things about them, they also have really competitive rates.
Having said all that, my site will be in the migration process sometime in the next week or so. There shouldn't be any down time associated with that, but you know how web things are. So if you come along and find that I'm not here, don't worry. I should be up shortly, and all the addresses and everything will remain the same.