Culpability

Hello,

I’ve posted about this before, but I need a bit of clarification.

I run a business that does web hosting. Basically we take our customers websites and make them available on the internet. Without hosting you can’t have a website, so functionally you can think of it as analogous to a building owner renting out space for a business.

I know we are culpable if one of our customers hosts something immoral, and that is fine with me. But my question is how far this reaches? Obviously something promoting homosexuality or abortion would be wrong. I’m assuming something promoting psychics or offering so-called psychic services would also be immoral. How about, though, a site promoting another religion like Hinduism or Buddhism? What about the new age movement?

I just want to know what the right thing is to do, so we can abide by this and not do something wrong.

Again, what if one of our customers gets a server from us, and they have a customer who is doing something immoral with their site? Would we be culpable for this? Same if a customer resells our resources to his own customers and one of those do something immoral. It is a bit more indirect, but we are still responsible for our customer being able to sell to other customers.

Your input would be appreciated, as quickly as possible. There’s a controversy about this among our managers and I need to find a definitive answer.

Thanks,
Brandon

Your biggest friend in the web hosting business is your TOS [Terms of Service] Given the Holy Father’s interfaith outreach, I don’t see how you would be culpable in allowing say a Buddhist website. I might be wrong, but this is MHO. You might consider posting this to the apologists, but I doubt such a modern problem would yield quick results from them.

I would include in the TOS provisions against anything having to do with the occult and ANY type of adult content Also include a clause about hosting anything considered to be a “hate” website or anything that violates state or federal laws. Mention to that they are responsible for knowing what is legal in their state, Country or Province. . In the TOS be clear that while you reserve the right to audit anything hosted on your servers your customers are responsible for auditing THEIR own customer content.

Hope this helps.

PS: Tell your partners that objectionable websites often invite in problems that people themselves experience when diving into immorality, in the form of a virus, DOS attacks and more.

Thanks. Wouldn’t occult though fall under another religion? Really they are all in the same camp.

As the business owner, you can choose to exercise control over content, though I suspect the law may constrain you. For example, are you legally permitted to refuse provision of service to an organisation promoting some aspect of a homosexual lifestyle.

I also wonder whether it is even practical for every Web hosting company to vet the content their customers deploy? In large operations, your staff may have no involvement in preparing or vetting the content, so difficult to accept responsibility, beyond taking down inappropriate content when notified to you. The issue raised in the prior paragraph then needs to be managed…

That’s not really the topic of this thread. I’ve already spoken to a moral theologian and been told that we would be culpable for content such as promoting homosexuality, abortion and the like. Of course we may not become aware of things immediately, but as long as we take it down when we find out about it.

But my question again is twofold: (1) how far this extends, even to sites promoting other religions, since that would be technically against the Church, and (2) whether if a customer is reselling our own resources to their customers, whether we’d be responsible for what their customers do, and to what extent.

OK, thinking of this more, here’s my opinion and reasons for it. Please tell me if I’m mistaken.

Regarding customers of customers, it would seem to be morally illicit if they host something immoral. At most, it would be formal cooperation, as being on our network, they could not host such content without our network. However, at the least it would be immediate material cooperation, which I still think would be illicit. It is servers that we own that such customers would be hosted on, on a network that we similarly own, so I think i is still pretty direct.

As for allowing sites which teach or promote other religions, this would seem to me to break the 1st commandment quite clearly, so again it seems illicit.

Opinions?

Hmm… you’re providing the connectivity to the internet, and the space to host the files, but you’re not involved in developing the content, right? Are you even aware of the content, prior to its deployment to your servers?

I know we are culpable if one of our customers hosts something immoral, and that is fine with me.

Are you? It doesn’t seem like this is immediate material cooperation, since that requires that the immoral act (abortion, homosexual acts) could not take place without your cooperation. Even proximate mediate cooperation would be a stretch, I would think.

However, the moral theologian whom you consulted might be thinking of the scandal that ensues from your actions – that is, it is not that you are cooperating in evil, but are helping to lead others to do evil. In that case, if by your actions, someone commits a morally illicit act, then you are bound up in the culpability of that act. I might see how ‘abortion’ or ‘homosexual activity’ might be included in this case, but not other forms of worship (after all, they’d be sinful for a Catholic to engage in, but the Church doesn’t say that the practice of another religion is sinful for the (non-Christian!) adherents of that religion)!

Further, once you sell resources to your customers, are you legally able to hold them accountable for the content that their customers produce?

So, I don’t think it’s a matter of cooperation, per se, but of scandal. Perhaps you might consider contacting the NCBC and get their moral theologians’ opinions?

IMO it is more than that. No we don’t directly develop the content, but still the host is a very important part of a website’s operation. It’d be like if you owned a building and allowed some immoral business to rent space there. You do not manage the business itself or contribute to it, but without the space that you provided them, they could not operate. So I think you are understating it a bit.

Yes, it is quite easy to dictate what your customers can or cannot have on their server. Most hosts disallow any sort of adult content anywhere on their network.

As for other religions, the ten commandments don’t just apply to Catholics, but are universal Divine law. If murdering someone or committing adultery is a sin no matter the culture or beliefs, so is worshipping other gods. It is just often softened because many people do not know that they are committing a sin by remaining outside of the Catholic Church.

If you monitor the content for ‘acceptability’, then yes, I think you’re taking that responsibility on yourself. If you don’t, though – and I’m not certain that such monitoring is typically part of the contract between host and client – then such an obligation hasn’t been created, right?

As for other religions, the ten commandments don’t just apply to Catholics, but are universal Divine law. If murdering someone or committing adultery is a sin no matter the culture or beliefs, so is worshipping other gods. It is just often softened because many people do not know that they are committing a sin by remaining outside of the Catholic Church.

Hmm… the Decalogue explicitly applies only to Jews (and Christians), doesn’t it? Murder and adultery are part of the “law written in our hearts”, to be sure, and are therefore included in the Commandments… but if the choice of one’s religion isn’t really a choice, but a dictate, then why does the Church tell us that “To be human, ‘man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.’ ‘God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced’”? (CCC, 160)

Many hosts do monitor their network, as far as I know.

It’s free, just as we have a free choice whether to live a good life or an immoral one. But we are still judged for our choices. Many of them are made out of ignorance so we do not receive the full consequences for them, such as someone who has lived outside of the Church all of their life and never knew it was true.

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