“We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time,” writes Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince.
“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”
We do not take this decision lightly. Cloudflare is a network provider. In pursuit of our goal of helping build a better internet, we’ve considered it important to provide our security services broadly to make sure as many users as possible are secure, and thereby making cyberattacks less attractive — regardless of the content of those websites. Many of our customers run platforms of their own on top of our network. If our policies are more conservative than theirs it effectively undercuts their ability to run their services and set their own policies. We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design. 8chan has crossed that line. It will therefore no longer be allowed to use our services.
Unfortunately, we have seen this situation before and so we have a good sense of what will play out. Almost exactly two years ago we made the determination to kick another disgusting site off Cloudflare’s network: the Daily Stormer. That caused a brief interruption in the site’s operations but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor. That competitor at the time promoted as a feature the fact that they didn’t respond to legal process. Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting. They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare’s problem, but they remain the Internet’s problem.
I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chan.
Prince adds that since terminating the Daily Stormer they’ve been “engaging” with law enforcement and civil society organizations to “try and find solutions,” which include “cooperating around monitoring potential hate sites on our network and notifying law enforcement when there was content that contained an indication of potential violence.” Earlier today Prince had used this argument in defense of Cloudflare’s hosting of the 8chan, telling the Guardian “There are lots of competitors to Cloudflare that are not nearly as law abiding as we have always been.” He added in today’s blog post that “We believe this is our responsibility and, given Cloudflare’s scale and reach, we are hopeful we will continue to make progress toward solving the deeper problem.”
“We continue to feel incredibly uncomfortable about playing the role of content arbiter and do not plan to exercise it often…. Cloudflare is not a government. While we’ve been successful as a company, that does not give us the political legitimacy to make determinations on what content is good and bad. Nor should it. Questions around content are real societal issues that need politically legitimate solutions…”
“What’s hard is defining the policy that we can enforce transparently and consistently going forward. We, and other technology companies like us that enable the great parts of the Internet, have an obligation to help propose solutions to deal with the parts we’re not proud of. That’s our obligation and we’re committed to it.”