NB: I am aware that this question is subjective, as it can't be defined precisely, but the answers should still be "objective": Country name, and what makes it legally safer.

EDIT: A) I am located in Germany. B) I am NOT looking for a place to offer pirated Software/Media; no binary on my site, except "profile icon".

Hello! I want to start publishing "social" websites / apps, and I found that the biggest initial problem is this: Any and all services I have to depend on, including Domain Registrar, DNS provider, Server/Cloud Provider, CDN Provider, ... even my Insurance Agent, basically say that they can "throw me out" if my website contains "unacceptable" content. It's always phrased in such a way that basically anything can fall under "unacceptable" content. This is very frustrating because you just can't fully control what users post on your "social website", and you so you basically have to expect when you go to bed that your site is going to be gone when you wake up. I've heard a lot of horror stories about this.

Since the "Terms Of Service" of all those providers are foremost to protect themselves from legal actions, and those legal actions depend on the country where they are located, it seems like the first step is to find which country is the "safest" to locate a site. "Safest" being defined as, where I am least likely to get in legal trouble with the local authorities, if some user posts something unacceptable in some way.

The main restriction is that it should also be a "well-connected" country, because there is no point in being "safe", if my users can't get to my sites, or the latency is unacceptable. I am targeting the English speaking people in any country as my future users.

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    Take some time to research safe harbor. Do the work to register your copyright agent for the DMCA protections. Keep an offline backup, and look at setting up multiple mirrors in different jurisdictions. – Zoredache Dec 12 '10 at 10:02
  • It is my understanding that "DMCA protection" only applies if you live in the USA. I am located in Germany. – monster Dec 12 '10 at 10:21
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    Are you Julian Assange? – Tom O'Connor Dec 12 '10 at 11:40
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    It should... well maybe not paranoid... but there's a valuable lesson there in the pros and cons of hosting (both as a customer and a provider) and what governments can and will take down. – Rob Moir Dec 12 '10 at 15:07
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    Legal restrictions form a weak ordering. There's no jurisdiction that is uniformly less restrictive than all others in all areas. – Ben Voigt Feb 20 '12 at 0:50

Wherever you go the host is going to be beholden to the legal terms of one country or another and all of them will have limits as to what is or is not acceptable. There is no "safe harbour" imho. I think the issues with wikileaks shows that just about any conventional hosting solution can be 'undone' if govt's are determined enough.

In my experience, reputable hosts that write those terms and conditions will work with a client to remove unacceptable content rather than just dusting off and nuking your site from orbit, but they still need to retain the right to do so in the event that you don't respond to/agree with their request, or the content is so unacceptable it requires immediate action. The issue is not whether you will get "in trouble" if a client posts something illegal but rather making sure that you will remove that content if they do, and if you refuse to co-operate then the hosting company can take action themselves while limiting their liability to you for doing so.

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  • Whatever happened to Sealand? Did they ever restart their hosting company after the fire? – Tom O'Connor Dec 12 '10 at 11:41
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    I don't know (wikipedia says 'no' though), but lets be honest, Sealand exists at the sufferance of the UK govt. If the brits wanted control of sealand they would have it. I wouldn't count on sealand if I wanted to host a wikileaks style set of UK govt. doctuments, lets put it that way. – Rob Moir Dec 12 '10 at 11:51
  • I was suspecting there is no real alternative, but I know there are real differences. Germany seems more tight on copyright issues (many sites block German users for this reason), but much less tight on nudity. Different cultures have different moral standards. – monster Dec 12 '10 at 13:31
  • Oh you're right, different countries have different "hot issues" but firstly, how they handle those issues tends to remain the same - in my experience, reputable hosts are not going to delete a co-operative customer's entire site because of one porn image or pirated mp3 as long as you work with them. And given that most countries have reciprocal agreements then you couldn't (just an example, I'm not suggesting you are doing this!) host content illegal in Germany on servers in the US or UK with no problem either. – Rob Moir Dec 12 '10 at 14:50

What you are asking for is kind of an oxymoron. A country with well developed infrastructure is generally going to have more regulation for how to handle online problems. In the same way, a reputable, high availability service provider is likely to have routines to deal with this kind of things swiftly, to stay a good service provider for the rest of their customers.

If you want stable hosting where you can deploy anything you want and only care about the laws your only option is to roll everything yourself. This takes technical knowledge (you need to request AS numbers, IP addresses, setup BGP and servers, negotiate peering agreements and transit agreements), as well as a considerable amount of money (such a project runs in the $10'000 range, even if you have the skills to do it yourself).

If you roll your own infrastructure you are only depending on the DNS registrar, your Regional Internet Registry (it's more or less unheard of addresses or AS'es being withdrawn if they are used) and your transit provider (most transit agreements does not limit the types of data you transfer). If you are cut off by one transit provider swapping to another is also a relatively small change.

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  • I theory, you can even be your own Registrar, but honestly, who can afford to do that? The bottom line is, unless you are large enough to depend on (almost) no one, there is always some company you depend on that can wipe you out of the web, and the smaller you are, the greater the risk. Since dependence cannot be eliminated, the next best option is to build redundancy at every level. The Registrar being the exception, as one domain can only be registered by one Registrar. – monster Dec 14 '10 at 12:06

Any and all services I have to depend on, including Domain Registrar, DNS provider, Server/Cloud Provider, CDN Provider, ... even my Insurance Agent, basically say that they can "throw me out" if my website contains "unacceptable" content. It's always phrased in such a way that basically anything can fall under "unacceptable" content.

Ok, this will sound unfriendly, but seriously GET REAL.

In germany there are tons of business that have no legal problem hosting social websites (which is what you say you do). Tons of them. From xing.com (business people network) oder to large net works offering real estate. Germany is one of the top 10 countries regarding hosted domains.

And no issues.

So, really, you are basically either not telling the truth regarding the legality of your business, OR you basically are totally over the board.

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  • I understand your point. I wasn't trying to say that Germany is worst then anywhere else on the Social Website front. I think they are more strict about copying an extract of some article or document of another website without permission (which makes no difference for me at all), or maybe it's only about how much the fine costs. And therefore some US and other sites block Germans because of that, which is rather frustrating. But it was only meant as an example of difference between countries, nothing more. – monster Dec 14 '10 at 11:43

Belize, or in fact any of the countries known for off-shore cash. They, by necessity for their main income have good internet and also lax regulations. Panama, BVI, etc.

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