Cloudflare abandons KiwiFarms – The Washington Post


SAN FRANCISCO — Reversing course under mounting public pressure, major tech security firm Cloudflare announced on Saturday that it would stop protecting the Kiwi Farms website, best known as a place where stalkers stage hacks, campaigns and online and harassment in the real world.

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, who last week posted a lengthy blog post justifying the company’s services defending websites such as Kiwi Farms, told the Washington Post that he changed his mind not because of the pressure but because of an increase in credible violent threats from the site.

“As Kiwi Farms felt more threatened, they reacted by being more threatening,” Prince said. “We believe there is imminent danger, and the pace at which law enforcement is able to respond to those threats, we believe, is not fast enough to keep up with.”

Prince said forum contributors post the home addresses of those deemed enemies and call for them to be shot.

Following Cloudflare’s move, visitors to Kiwi Farms were greeted with this message: “Due to an imminent and urgent threat to human life, access to content on this site is blocked through Cloudflare’s infrastructure. “

In a post on Telegram, Kiwi Farm founder Josh Moon said Cloudflare made its decision “without any discussion” and said he had not been contacted by law enforcement about the incident. threats to the site. “It’s early morning here,” the post said. “My thoughts will be better articulated in the morning.”

Kiwi Farms was launched in 2013 and quickly became a popular Internet forum for online harassment campaigns. At least three suicides have been linked to harassment by the Kiwi Farms community, and many forum members consider their goal to be to drive their targets to suicide. Members of the LGBTQ community and women are frequent targets.

Cloudflare faced a broad backlash last week as a campaign for it to drop the service gathered momentum and broadened to pressure paying customers to drop Cloudflare if it does. held on. The company claims that it provides certain services, mostly free, that protect almost a fifth of all Internet traffic.

On Aug. 24, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called for Kiwi Farms to be broken up after it was run over by someone claiming to be affiliated with the site. “Isn’t it worrying that such a website exists? Greene said in an interview with Newsmax. “This website should be taken down. There should be no business or any type of service where you can target your enemy.”

It was around this time that the company stopped selling Kiwi Farms a $20-a-month service to customize error messages displayed to users when its pages failed to load. On Saturday, it retired the remaining free services, which fend off denial-of-service attacks and speed up content delivery by making copies of the site in many places.

Clara Sorrenti, a cross-Canada Twitch streamer known online as Keffals, started the #DropKiwiFarms campaign after being targeted by Kiwi Farms posters for over six months.

Forum users had doxed Sorrenti and her family on several occasions, posting addresses and more, and last month called false crime reports to lure police to her home in “crushing” attacks. Sorrenti fled to Northern Ireland late last month and within 48 hours forum users located her and she started receiving threats.

On Saturday, she spoke to The Post just minutes after police arrived at her home after another run-over attempt.

“There are countless people who are suffering because of this website,” Sorrenti said. “Kiwi Farms is not about free speech, it’s about hate speech. The majority of content on the site consists of threads used for targeted harassment against political targets.

Sorrenti’s campaign against Cloudflare has gone viral in recent days, with organizations and influencers joining the call to ban Kiwi Farms from Cloudflare’s service. The Anti-Defamation League called Kiwi Farms “an extremist-friendly forum that has been the breeding ground for countless harassment campaigns”.

In the interview, Prince said he was uncomfortable abandoning Kiwi Farms despite its content and would have preferred to do so only in response to a court order.

But he said it was an easier call than his previous decisions to ditch the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer and the 8chan website because those two were not hotbeds for specific violent plots.

In an article published Wednesday, Prince and another executive wrote that they consider the provision of basic security and caching services as infrastructure, like internet connectivity, and should not be held responsible for content without due process. judicial. They contrasted this with website hosting, which they said should have greater accountability and discretion.

Prince said Saturday he stands by that reasoning, and he wrote in a new position that quitting Kiwi Farms was a “dangerous” decision. He added in the interview that this could cause an even greater escalation of forum users and that the forum would likely reappear online with the help of Cloudflare’s competitors.

“A lot of that could push the problem forward and worse, could even get worse as Kiwi Farms posters feel under attack,” Prince told the Post.

Some tech experts have backed Cloudflare’s resistance to act. Daphne Keller, director of the platform regulation program at Stanford’s Cyber ​​Policy Center, cited recent nudges on Facebook by the current Indian government over content from political opponents.

“The question is which parts of the technical ‘stack’ of the Internet are supposed to be neutral, which are supposed to moderate content, and is there an intermediate set of obligations that should apply to the intermediate layers? ” Keller told the Post.

But a wide range of technologists disagreed with the previous position. On Friday, Stanford University’s Alex Stamos wrote on Twitter that the position to continue serving Kiwi Farms was “unsustainable.”

“Soon a doctor or an activist or a trans person is going to be doxed and killed or a mass shooter is going to be inspired by it. The investigation will show the killer’s links to the site and Cloudflare’s corporate base will evaporate,” Stamos wrote.

Prince said in the interview that he couldn’t provide the number of new threats he’s seen on Kiwi Farms, but he said they escalated quickly alongside the forum’s criticism. He said the company shared details with the FBI and law enforcement in the UK and Australia, but none of those agencies asked him, even informally, to drop Kiwi Farms. .

Wider concerns about the violent online organization have been growing for years, accelerating after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Warnings from law enforcement and intelligence agencies also pointed to potential violence around the November election, or even earlier, with former President Donald Trump likening the FBI and other institutions to organized crime.

Incitement by others online about gender issues has inspired recent threats against children’s hospitals.

Moon, founder of Kiwi Farm, is a former administrator of 8chan, a forum popularized by followers of the extremist QAnon ideology. After hosting video of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting that killed 51 people, New Zealand internet service providers blocked Kiwi Farms after Moon denied a police request for information about the related posts to the shootout.

Last July, Kiwi Farms was started from its domain registrarDreamHost, following the suicide of a software developer called Near, who was a longtime target of the site’s userbase.

“Like many trans people who said they were targeted by this site, I too was targeted by Kiwifarms,” tweeted Erin Reed, trans activist and content creator, on Saturday. “They showed up at my local courthouse to grab my divorce records. They posted Google images of my house. They try to scare trans people into silence.

But Chelsea Manning, a trans activist, offered a more nuanced opinion. “I don’t think the long-term solution to this kind of dangerous talk is to ask hosts to take these things down,” she told The Post. “We need a more balanced and measured long-term approach.”

Lorenz reported from Los Angeles.

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