Cloudflare blocked access through its infrastructure to Kiwi Farms on Saturday after a major online protest over the company's role in protecting a forum that has been blamed for harassment campaigns that have led to several suicides.
The company's co-founder and CEO, Matthew Prince, said in a blog post Saturday that the action was taken because "the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and specific, targeted threats have escalated over the last 48 hours."
As recently as Wednesday, Prince had resisted calls to stop providing services to the site, which has long been linked to hate and harassment. Earlier this month transgender activist and Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti was forced into hiding by a campaign organized on Kiwi Farms. Sorrenti was also swatted and later tracked down at hotels by users of the site.
The main page of the site showed a message Saturday: "Due to an imminent and emergency threat to human life, the content of this site is blocked from being accessed through Cloudflare’s infrastructure."
"We're happy with the decision that Cloudflare came to, and this deals a big blow to Kiwi Farms and their community, one they may never recover from," Sorrenti said in a statement posted to Twitter. "If we want to see the end of Kiwi Farms and communities like theirs, we must continue fighting."
Cloudflare had been providing Kiwi Farms with anti-DDoS protection, which blocks attempts to flood a website with traffic in order to knock it offline. The online protest had urged Cloudflare customers to switch to other service providers.
In the blog post, Prince contended that blocking Kiwi Farms was not a response to the online protests, which have included calls by many in the cybersecurity community for Cloudflare to halt its services to the site.
Cloudflare is "not taking this action directly because of the pressure campaign," Prince wrote in the post, saying that the company has "empathy" for the organizers of the protest but is "committed as a security provider to protecting our customers even when they run deeply afoul of popular opinion or even our own morals."
The Wednesday post was widely panned by activists and cybersecurity industry leaders, including for a claim that Cloudflare had donated fees from an anti-LGBTQ+ site to an organization that supports LGBTQ+ rights.
In the post Saturday, Prince did not apologize or indicate that he felt Cloudflare's leadership had done anything wrong in its handling of the situation. In fact, he called the decision to withdraw its services from Kiwi Farms "a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with."
"The policy we articulated last Wednesday remains our policy," Prince said in the Saturday post. "We continue to believe that the best way to relegate cyberattacks to the dustbin of history is to give everyone the tools to prevent them."
"This is a hard case and we would caution anyone from seeing it as setting precedent," he wrote.
A recent report in Time cited research showing that “although just one in five websites across the mainstream internet are hosted by Cloudflare, it hosts one in three websites known primarily for spreading hate speech or misinformation.”
Cloudflare previously cut off service to the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer in 2017 and 8chan, a forum linked to hate crimes and conspiracy theories, in 2019.
This story was updated with a statement from Sorrenti.