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Cloudflare drops Kiwifarms as company forced to reckon with depth of responsibility

Cloudflare drops Kiwifarms as company forced to reckon with depth of responsibility

Cloudflare drops Kiwifarms as company forced to reckon with depth of responsibility

SAN FRANCISCO – Internet infrastructure and security giant Cloudflare have announced that they would be blocking controversial forum Kiwifarms from using their services going forward.

Kiwifarms has come under a targeted efforts by activists to deplatform the site known as a haven for hate speech, organizing raids, and doxing campaigns with the goal of driving people to suicide. Despite mounting pressure Cloudflare has been steadfast in defending their neutrality in dealing with Kiwifarms escalating behavior. It ultimately chose to reverse course in a post on September 3 by co-founder Matthew Prince who talked about the difficulty of coming to the decision to ban Kiwifarms.

“This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and, given Cloudflare's role as an Internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with,” Prince wrote. “However, the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and specific, targeted threats have escalated over the last 48 hours to the point that we believe there is an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life unlike we have previously seen from Kiwifarms or any other customer before.”

The activity in question included users of the forums posting personal addresses and information for people they deemed targets with calls for physical violence. The ban deals a major blow to them as Cloudflare’s security and DDoS prevention services are used by over 20 percent of the internet. “I do not see a situation where the Kiwi Farms (sic) is simply allowed to operate,” Said Kiwifarms founder Josh Moon in a post on Telegram. “It will either become a fractured shell of itself, like 8chan, or jump between hosts and domain names like Daily Stormer.” Moon would go on to call victims of Kiwifarms attacks and harassment campaigns, “…a coalition of criminals trying to frame the forum for their behavior.”

The site has been trying to get back online however as investigative journalist Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity pointed out on twitter that the group was working to get online with Epik, who are known for providing hosting services for neo-Nazi and far right content.

Cloudflare’s hand wringing and reluctance to act on the group has come on the heels of months of calls for action. A study produced by Stanford University in May this year labeled Cloudflare as one of the major providers serving web content for misinformation sites by as much as 34.3%. It should be noted however that same report questions the effectiveness of deplatforming disinformation sites. “…when major sites are deplatformed by mainstream hosting and registrar providers, they nearly always find new homes on alternative providers who actively ignore site content, similar to how bullet-proof hosting providers are utilized by malicious actors on the internet.” The report states.  

For its part Cloudflare’s greatest worry now seems to be escalating violence. “There is real risk that by taking this action today we may have further heightened the emergency.” Prince wrote. “We are hopeful that our action today will help provoke conversations toward addressing the larger problem. And we stand ready to participate in that conversation.”

The full statement from Cloudflare can be read at blog.cloudflare.com/kiwifarms-blocked/.

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