Hoder Shutdown, Shakedown

Hoder.com temporary banner
Hossein Derakhshan’s blog, Hoder.com was shut down on Friday by his host, Hosting Matters, over allegations of defamation brought by the lawyers of Mehdi Khalaji, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). WINEP’s advisory board includes neo-conservative poster boy Richard Perle, and until 2001 counted Paul Wolfowitz as a member of that board as well. Hoder, to say the least, is not fond of neo-cons. I have no doubt that whatever Hoder said was delivered in the most biting way possible, and not everything he writes is necessarily verifiable, something for which he’s become somewhat known.

My understanding is that the gist of the situation is that Khalaji claimed Hoder made false statements about him, and as such demanded a specific post about him be removed. He also demanded $10K in damages. According to Hoder, Hoder removed one post at his host’s requests, but then Khalaji’s lawyers continued to insist that all posts mentioning Khalaji are defamatory and must be removed. Hoder’s host then wrote him this email:

While we do not agree with the assessment as it relates to
the latest post you have made, we do not have the time, interest, or
resources to invest in continually dealing with his complaints and to review
your site. Please remove that post and refrain from mentioning this person
in any form on the site you host within this network.

This is incredibly disturbing – the host recognized that Khalaji/Khalaji’s lawyers were wrong but still allowed Khalaji’s bullying to force their hand.

Hoder’s site is now temporarily hosted on Blogger, and he provides the letter from Khalaji’s lawyers (PDF) and the email exchange with Hosting Matters as supporting documentation.

There’s been a lot of buzz today on this, with a good, legalese post by Pars Arts contributor Nema Milaninia on his group blog, Iranian Truth. Also, Iranian.com has some coverage, with posts by Hoder himself, a critical letter/short piece by Kianosh Saadati, and a blog post by Jahanshah Javid.

Who’s in the wrong here? It’s hard to pinpoint the blame, so maybe everyone. Hoder claims free speech, but is defamation a constitutional right? Since when is it okay for journalists, a capacity in which Hoder has worked, to write without a little fact-checking? And in a time when Iranian-American scholars are being held under trumped up charges of espionage while visiting family in Iran, accusations like the ones that fly around on Hoder’s blog become more grave than just political bickering. However, Khalaji’s lawyers were overzealous and it was wrong to press for removal of all other posts after the one that was removed at first. And it was wrong for the host to shut him down, though I’m not familiar with the terms of service.

What do you think? Did Hoder deserve what he got, or is Khalaji in the wrong for suing him?

Update (8/14): The original Hoder post that was removed is in Persian, here. To clarify, regarding Hoder’s fact-checking, specifically in this instance, I can’t conclusively say he didn’t do so but meant that the language he frequently employs in his posts, such as calling someone “the filthiest traitor I have ever seen in my life” as he does Khalaji, in my mind is combative, unprofessional, and undercuts his credibility. It’s important to note that doesn’t mean he doesn’t fact-check, but just means I think he’s excessively vitriolic – an important distinction and one I neglected in this post, which was unfair to Hoder.

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I am not a fan of Hoder because he did endanger some of my good friends who are Iranian bloggers by revealing their identity and private information. But let’s be frank – this is threatening even for the rest of us. Day after day bloggers are being sued for libel even though much of the posts in question are mere criticisms. I would be in favor of confronting him, and even filing a law suit if Khalaji’s complaints are entirely valid, but to remove his site? Without fully consulting him about it? I agree that Hoder takes it too far and in that respect he deserves the attacks he receives but not to lose his online presence shouldn’t be an option.

Actually, I take that back. I have taken the time to read the e-mail exchange and I am with the Host on this one. He was not collaborating, he was being threatening and arrogant, and for that, he deserves to have his account be terminated. No company should put up with threats, and this one clearly didn’t, especially if he had unpaid services with them.

18 Aug 2007, 7:33am
by Daniel Klein

Esra, you are unfair. The hosting company explicitly says that he wants hoder to remove eveything Hossein has written in any language about Khalaji and never mentions his name ever again, just because they don’t have enough resources to figure if they were really defamatory or this is only what Khalaji thinks so.

And then removing all those posts without hoder’s knowledge from his database.

Interedtingly enough, neither the lawyer nor Hosting matters never even gave the chance to Hoder to refute.

I can’t read Persian unfortunately, but what Hossein says about a mistranslation by Khalaji’s lawyer is also worth paying attention.

Ultimately, Hossein’s point is that he thinks Khalaji is a “traitor” because he is working for the “enemies of his own people and humanity” and I think he is damn right. As a Jew myself, I also think anyone who serves the likes of Perle, Wolfowitz, woolsey, Pipes, Clawson and Rubin is a traitor to humanity.

20 Aug 2007, 9:06am
by Charquiyya

Not only Esraa is unfair, but she is hypocrite. On her blog she is condemning Turky block’s of wordpress.com. A block which is also based on alleged defamatory blogs containing “slanders” to the Turkish lawyer’s client.

[...] over the last couple of years, he’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, to say the least. He’s taken some pretty strong political stances, [...]


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