Cloudflare said Wednesday that it's not likely to terminate services for controversial customers in the future, following online protests asking the company to stop providing service to a site linked to hate and harassment.
One of Cloudflare’s popular security services is anti-DDoS protection, which blocks attempts to flood a website with traffic in order to knock it offline. Without Cloudflare's service, it’s unlikely that Kiwi Farms — a site with a long history of harassment that has been blamed for several suicides — would be able to stay online.
In a blog post Wednesday, Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince and Alissa Starzak, vice president and global head of public policy, said the company's leadership has concluded that "the power to terminate security services for [controversial] sites was not a power Cloudflare should hold."
"Just as the telephone company doesn't terminate your line if you say awful, racist, bigoted things, we have concluded in consultation with politicians, policy makers, and experts that turning off security services because we think what you publish is despicable is the wrong policy," the Cloudflare executives said in the post.
The executives said that Cloudflare has previously cut off service to sites on account of "reprehensible" content on two occasions — the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer in 2017 and 8chan, a forum linked to hate crimes and conspiracy theories, in 2019.
"To be clear, just because we did it in a limited set of cases before doesn’t mean we were right when we did. Or that we will ever do it again," Prince and Starzak said in the post.
Multiple times in the post, the executives said terminating service to such sites represents a "dangerous precedent."
Noting that more than 20% of websites currently use Cloudflare, "when considering our policies we need to be mindful of the impact we have and precedent we set for the Internet as a whole," the executives said. "Terminating security services for content that our team personally feels is disgusting and immoral would be the popular choice. But, in the long term, such choices make it more difficult to protect content that supports oppressed and marginalized voices against attacks."
Online protests against Cloudflare have been growing in recent weeks after transgender activist and Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti was forced into hiding by a campaign organized on Kiwi Farms. Sorrenti was “swatted” and later tracked down at hotels by users of the site.
A report in Time said research shows 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 had remained silent up until the blog post Wednesday.
"Our conclusion — informed by all of the many conversations we have had and the thoughtful discussion in the broader community — is that voluntarily terminating access to services that protect against cyberattack is not the correct approach," the Cloudflare executives said in the post.