Cloudflare’s Response to Calls To Drop Harmful Hate Website: That’s Not Our Problem

Cloudflare’s Response to Calls To Drop Harmful Hate Website: That’s Not Our Problem

In the early hours of the morning in Australia, international web hosting and internet security company Cloudflare published a blog post that might seem a bit strange if you’ve been out of the loop, addressing Kiwi Farms controversy without naming the website.

Let’s run through some context. Cloudflare allows websites to be hosted easily, but also provides a range of other products, including DDoS protection and domain registration.

This applies to a wide range of websites on the internet, from blogs to social media sites to news websites, but it has also previously applied to online message boards like 8Chan and The Daily Stormer (both now inaccessible).

Those websites have been linked to incredibly reprehensible things and both had their Cloudflare DDoS protection revoked.

Most recently, there have been calls for Cloudflare to revoke Kiwi Farms support for many of the same reasons. According to Twitch streamer Clara “Keffals” Sorrenti, the leader of the campaign to #DropKiwifarms, doxxing, swatting and hate campaigns have been organised against her on Kiwi Farms.

Cloudflare uploaded a blog post on why they won’t be taking down websites. Let’s dig into that post.

“Some argue that we should terminate these services to content we find reprehensible so that others can launch attacks to knock it offline,” the Cloudflare post reads, penned by CEO Matthew Prince and vice president Alissa Starzak.

“That is the equivalent argument in the physical world that the fire department shouldn’t respond to fires in the homes of people who do not possess sufficient moral character. Both in the physical world and online, that is a dangerous precedent, and one that is over the long term most likely to disproportionately harm vulnerable and marginalised communities.”

Hey, uh…what? I might not be the CEO of a major online infrastructure company, but this is not a good comparison. This analogy could be considered harmful because it implies that Cloudflare provides an essential service, not that it’s a private company. Perhaps a better comparison is likening the Cloudflare service to the way Facebook and Twitter operate (and they are held accountable for taking down bad content). Another questionable element is the obvious line about not responding to “fires in the homes of people who do not possess sufficient moral character”. Keep in mind that they’re actually talking about not providing security services to a website linked to suicides, hate crimes and mass shootings.

Anyway, Cloudflare continues the post by reflecting on its removal of support for The Daily Stormer and 8Chan, despite finding the content reprehensible. Cloudflare claims that they saw a “dramatic increase in authoritarian regimes attempting to have us terminate the security services for human rights organisations” after taking down these sites.

Now, Cloudflare says that the power to terminate security services  “was not a power Cloudflare should hold”. The justification? “Because security services most closely resemble internet utilities”.

“Just as the telephone company doesn’t terminate your line if you say awful, racist, bigoted things, we have concluded in consultation with politicians, policy makers, and experts that turning off security services because we think what you publish is despicable is the wrong policy. To be clear, just because we did it in a limited set of cases before doesn’t mean we were right when we did. Or that we will ever do it again.”

The blog post continues by mentioning its support for vulnerable groups and human rights organisations like The Trevor Project through “Project Galileo” and helps to protect elections with the “Athenian project”.

Anyway, Keffals and her team have now responded.

“Cloudflare’s response to growing pressure on them to discontinue their relationship with far-right harassment forum Kiwi Farms is inadequate, inconsistent and an abdication of their moral responsibility,” the post reads.

“The answer is simple: make ethical choices. If they cannot do that, then Cloudflare is morally equating an authoritarian regime with the people they oppress. Asking someone to use a tool in one instance is not asking them to use a tool in all instances. Suspending services for Kiwi Farms does not mean suspending services for The Trevor Project.”

It’s genuinely hard to disagree with the termination of Kiwi Farms’ Cloudflare services. The site has long been linked with terrible things, not unlike sites Cloudflare has revoked support from in the past.

This isn’t like a telephone company terminating your line if you say bigoted things: this is the internet, where people can say things without worrying about the consequences. More importantly, we’re simply not talking about a phone call, we’re talking about a message board of people saying and doing harmful things.

If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support or someone to talk to, contact the Lifeline Australia hotline at 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service at 1300 65 94 67 or the Kids Helpline (for ages 5-25) at 1800 55 1800.

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