Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rating site for cops gets kicked around the Internet

Rating sites have been a permanent feature on the internet since at least 2000 with Hot or Not. At first they were trivial, but then along came Rate My Professors, beloved by college students across the Anglosphere. (Web 2.0 sites have intense network effects, so hideous and poorly-designed sites like Rate My Professors and MySpace become entrenched.)

Now comes along a rating site with a civil libertarian edge: It's only been live for about two weeks, and you'll notice right now that it's down, because its host – GoDaddy, the largest web hosting site – took it down. This is just a day after a story was published about law enforcement officials' disdain for the site, some calling for a legislative prohibition on sites of that sort (obviously in violation of the First Amendment). Apparently, they even lied to him about the reason, blaming it on him surpassing a bandwidth limit that he obviously hadn't. (Later they backtracked, and blamed some really broad contract provision.) After that, the operator of the site went with RackSpace (remember those heady days when web hosting companies advertised on TV commercials?), only to be given the axe and told that RateMyCop could "could create a risk to the health and safety of law enforcement officers." According to that same Wired article, he apparently is now hosting the site temporarily himself, but my DNS servers haven't updated because I'm still getting GoDaddy's page.

RateMyCop is no doubt legal, and will in the next few days find a host. Having feedback about officers online in such an easily accessible format (Gino Sesto, the operator, said they were considering letting the officers authenticate themselves and respond to comments) might increase pressure on law enforcement to reign in some of the more uncouth elements amongst them. I know that in my home town – a wealthy, low crime area – I've heard pretty nasty stories about one officer in particular, who apparently called his boots "nigger kickers."

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