Cloudflare Drops Daily Stormer After Being Provoked

Neo-nazi website Daily Stormer has had its Cloudflare account terminated after provoking the company by, in part, claiming that it secretly supported their racist ideologies. The move is a controversial one, and not one the company made lightly. Questions about free speech and whether companies should police what customers and users say has long been a difficult one, and the reason many hate-filled groups continue to persist on big platforms like Reddit.

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince issued a statement about the company's decision this evening, explaining that Daily Stormer's claims about Cloudflare's (non-existent) support of their ideology was the 'tipping point' that led to the account termination. The company points out that its Terms of Service allow it to terminate an account if it feels doing so is necessary, and though it has largely taken the stance of being 'content neutral,' it was provoked to action in this case.

Prince points out that there are a huge number of entities that are involved in making the websites you see available. "Any of [those entities] could regulate content online. The question is: which of them should?" That's an important question, but not one with a simple answer. Censorship is looked down upon by many, but values and beliefs vary, and that includes debate over whether free speech should trump allowing hate groups like Daily Stormer to have a public platform.

He goes on to discuss the issue of vigilante justice — in this case, hackers wanting to attack the Daily Stormer website with DDoS attacks — and where Cloudflare's ability to aid or prevent this falls. Prince stated, in part:

We've argued that it doesn't make sense to regulate content at the proxy, where Cloudflare provides service, since if we terminate a user the content won't go away it will just be slower and more vulnerable to attack.

That's true, and made sense for a long time, but increasingly may not be relevant. The size and scale of the attacks that can now easily be launched online make it such that if you don't have a network like Cloudflare in front of your content, and you upset anyone, you will be knocked offline ...

You, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormer's site is vile ... But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice.

Ultimately, Prince explains that the concept of Due Process supersedes the concept of Free Speech due to the latter's largely American underpinnings, where as the concept of Due Process 'is close to universal.' And Due Process ultimately means 'decisions be public and not arbitrary.' The company publicly states what it will never do, and one of those this is terminating an account 'due to political pressure.'

The case of Daily Stormer, though, has led it to the point of having to consider whether that particular thing — nixing an account due to political pressure — be removed from its list of 'nevers.' Cloudflare's action follows both Google's and GoDaddy's moves against the neo-nazi website.

SOURCE: Cloudflare