My frustration at GoDaddy has gone to a whole other level this week.
I used to be a loyal GoDaddy customer from day 1. I hosted over a hundred websites, including 3 dedicated and 2 virtual servers, had all my domains through there all purchases through my reseller account which was also doing very well. Needless to say I feel I am a pretty reliable source to be giving a GoDaddy review.
Over the last 2 years, my loyalty to GoDaddy has been steadily dwindling. It wasn’t the customer support that was steadily getting worse, or the constant mistakes in billing….it wasn’t even the malware attacks that prayed on server vulnerabilities, infecting over 87 of my wordpress sites that they stubbornly insisted to the bitter end, wasn’t their fault.
But the nail in the coffin for me, was finding out that GoDaddy does not enforce their own terms to protect our servers, and that anyone with an email has the power to take your server down.
Scary right? Its the truth and here is what happened.
Recently one of our Dedicated Servers was suspended because of a Copyright Complaint. No notice, no warning…nothing. One minute its up and the next its down.
There is no way to contact the Copyright department by phone. You can only contact them through email. And they are the only one with the power to restore your server. You are supposed to receive an email notifying you as to why the server was taken down but since most of us with dedicated servers also host our emails on the server, that did not happen in our case.
So we had to send them a request by email to find out why our server was suspended and they took their sweet time responding. Nearly 5 hours later we got an email with a complaint that was attached from www.Destination360.com who claimed an image we had on the site was theirs and they swore under penalty of perjury to that fact. They provided a link of the image on their own site, and then one that showed it on our site. That was it.
Our first issue was to get the server restored. And in order for us to do that we had to follow this list of things which included swearing under penalty of perjury that we would remove the image immediately. I found that interesting considering you can’t remove the image when the server is down. We responded with the things they asked us for, and told them we would remove the image as soon as they put the server back up. But we kept getting rejected with an auto response referring us to the terms and instructions. I just continued to submit the same response and the 4th time it was accepted. FINALLY, After 12 hours of being down and waiting for responses, we were told we would be restored. But it didn’t happen and when we called to see why, we found out they went home and we would have to wait until the next morning!
Eventually they got the server back up. Total down time, 20 hours, just long enough to lose traffic from a breaking news story linked to on drudge, affect the sites ranking and lose advertisers.
I decided to now look into this situation that caused all this which was the copyright violation claim. Imagine my surprise when I searched the image in question on tineye.com, to find out that the image was in fact owned by IStock photo. Further research showed we had a license for it.
So why was Destination360.com filing complaints about images they don’t own? And how was this claim validated by GoDaddy? Can anyone claim copyright infringement and just take down a website? Does GoDaddy just yank your website, no questions asked? It seems so, how else could this have happened when clearly the accuser did not own the image and could not have provided proof of such.
SO the questions is, does GoDaddy just automatically suspend service when they get complaints and then sort out the details later? Because that seemed to me like a very dangerous power to give to someone who wants to take a site down. There had to be something that prevents false claims or malicious intent.
I called an talked to a manager named Chris to ask this very question. Chris assured me that although they wont make the decision who is right and who is wrong when the complaints are received, they do make them follow a strict complaint submission protocol and will verify the complaint before they suspend. They admit they take action swiftly but they do not just suspend all sites that get complaints arbitrarily.
I checked out the rules for submitting a copyright complaint. To my surprise, the complaint that Desintation360 provided did not provide the necessary information to have a valid complaint according to the terms of GoDaddy.
So how was that claim aloud to pass as valid? Can anyone just lie and say we stole their image and take our server down?
But even more surprising is that they do NOT ask you to provide proof of some kind of documentation of the actual copyright when making a complain. Which means if someone has malicious intent, all they have to do is swear that they believe you have violated their copyright (even if no such copyright exists) by using something of theirs on your website, and GoDaddy will suspend the website. No questions asked.
I contacted ISTOCK who immediately called me, concerned and provided us with proof for GoDaddy, that we were within our rights to use that image. My goal was to not only show GoDaddy the claim was not valid but to show we had the right to put the image back up.
I immediately emailed that to GoDaddy the license and letter from ISTOCK, along with several requests for a manager to review this situation. I was very concerned that our server was not safe, and wanted to know why the complaint was allowed to be escalated to server suspension and how they thwart malicious intent, if they are not asking for any kind of proof. Chris the manager said they do look into these things first. But clearly that didn’t happen here. So what happened?
I expected someone to email me back. But we got nothing but automated responses containing instructions on how to get our server back up which proved they were clearly not even reading our emails considering the site had already been back up for 2 days.
When I finally did get a response from someone named Michelle, she asked me why the image was still up when we promised to remove it. That concerned me again considering it wasn’t up and hadn’t been for 2 days. But even worse was that we had provided our license for the image and should have been able to put it back up anyway. SO no one was even looking at our emails and documentation. GoDaddy didn’t care that we were wrongly accused.
Hey wait, aren’t they supposed to be on our side?
After providing her with a link to the images 404, and again asking how we can document with GoDaddy that this claim was not valid and did not comply to their terms and asking to be allowed to republish the image, she responded asking us file a counter claim
So we did. She responded to tell us that the server would need to be suspended until the court date.
Wait….court date? What court date? I thought we were just providing you with information about why the complaint was not valid so we could put the image back up and not get in trouble for it. Apparently there is NO way to do this. There is no way to disprove a bogus claims with GoDaddy and NO way to hold someone accountable for false claims under penalty of perjury without taking them to court. And the best part is that godaddy supports you through this process by taking your server down until it is resolved, something that is not mentioned in their terms.
In the end, we never got a call or email responding to our concerns, nothing assuring us it wouldn’t happen again, nothing explaining the situation, nothing acknowledging the proof we had the rights to the image, nothing assuring us that they do look into claims before yanking servers and sites. Just Nothing.
Oh and I emailed Destination360 several times to tell them about their mistake and how it affected our website. Guess what I got from them? Yep. Nothing.
So what does all this mean to you? It means your GoDaddy server and website is vulnerable. And until GoDaddy decides to listen to its customers and better protect them, this is not going to change anytime soon.
I certainly don’t intend in staying around to find out.