Controversy and Server Problems Hound Cop-Rating Website RateMyCop.com
By Gerri Elder
Wired.com reports that a new website offering a user-rating service for law enforcement officers has encountered some trouble with its hosting provider, the GoDaddy.com infamous for its lascivious Super Bowl ads.
RateMyCop.com went live on February 28th, providing a forum for user-generated reviews concerning police officers in their local area. Gino Sesto, the site's founder, requested public information records concerning badge numbers of uniformed police officers, collecting the information for 140,000 officers in 500 cities.
As you might expect, police departments around the country raised concern over this information being collated for a database on the Internet. Some officers are worried that many in their number might be placed under greater danger if their names were published.
However, since the information used on the site is already publicly available and the site isn't publishing information on undercover cops, the more pressing concern is that the site may become a merely one-sided opportunity for people upset at their arrests or encounters with police officers to unfairly malign them.
Though founder Sesto has plans to create a response system for police officers to post their viewpoint to any criticism, the sheer number of complaints possible, combined with the relative anonymity of the Internet, make many of the problems associated with this kind of complaint system tough to manage. The tendency in consumer reviews to only see reviews by people with strong feelings about a product or service (good or bad) make RateMyCop especially tough to portray as even-handed. Who, after all, except the exceptional person will admit that the officer who pulled them over for speeding was polite and fair?
GoDaddy.com pulled the site on March 11 and directed users to an error page with no explanation to the site's owners. When Sesto contacted GoDaddy, he was told first that the site was pulled down for "suspicious activity," then told he had exceeded his bandwidth limit, which he had clearly not.
Currently, RateMyCop is operating from its own servers and the site is up and operational. There was talk of a short-lived deal with hosting company Rackspace, but that company's lawyers saw RateMyCop as a potentially controversial site that might affect the company's own legal liability.
In order to maintain the site indefinitely and keep up with the traffic that Sesto expects, a hosting company will have to take over the site, though with the popularity arising from the news coverage, Sesto doesn't think finding one will pose much of a problem.