SAN FRANCISCO – Citing an “immediate threat to human life”, Cloudflare has removed notorious bullying and harassment site Kiwi Farms from its internet security services following an online campaign launched by transgender Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti to make pressure on him.
“This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and given Cloudflare’s role as an Internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous role that we are not comfortable with,” CEO Matthew Prince wrote in Saturday’s a blog post. “However, the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and the specific and targeted threats have escalated over the past 48 hours to the point where we believe there is an unprecedented urgency and immediate threat to human life contrary to what we’ve seen before from Kiwifarms or any other customer before.”
For years, members of the site have congregated in what they call a “lightweight discussion board” to mount vicious harassment campaigns against transgender people, feminists and others they deem to be mocking. They gang up on victims and pool their personal information such as addresses and phone numbers in a practice called “doxxing”, spreading vile rumors and targeting workplaces, friends, families and homes. Another favorite tactic was “swatting” – making fake emergency calls to provoke an armed police response to a target’s home. Some people subjected to abuse by the group have died by suicide.
Sorrenti, who goes through Keffals online, led a campaign to pressure Cloudflare to drop Kiwi Farms. In August, she fled her home in Canada for Europe after being doxxed and run over. Her online stalkers, however, also found her in Belfast, Ireland, and continued to escalate their campaign of harassment against her even as her campaign against Kiwi Farms and its enablers gained momentum.
“When a multi-billion dollar company like Cloudflare has to abandon Kiwi Farms due to an ‘imminent and urgent threat to human life’, it’s no longer a matter of free speech. Removing Kiwi Farms from the internet is a matter of public safety for every person online,” she tweeted on Saturday.
On Sunday, Kiwi Farms was inaccessible. But a version of the site with a .ru domain name was up and running intermittently, though it was unclear if it would stay that way.
“There has never been a violent incident in our history, which cannot be said for many other sites yet on Cloudflare. This story feels like a lie spun to save face,” Moon, who posts on Kiwi Farms under the pseudonym “Null,” posted on Saturday in response to Cloudflare’s cut.Reached earlier by The Associated Press to comment on the campaign against his site, Moon replied that “the press is trash.”
KiwiFarms.ru is registered and protected by the Russian company DDoS-Guard, whose clients have in the past included Russian government websites including the Ministry of Defense and cybercriminal forums where stolen credit cards are bought and sold .
Last year, DDoS-Guard shielded pro-Trump social media website Parler.com for a while after Amazon pulled hosting services. KiwiFarms.ru was registered on July 12, suggesting that the site’s creator and administrator, Joshua Conner Moon, knew Cloudflare could take down his site and so created a backup plan.
DDoS-Guard did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Sunday. Its internet connection is provided by VegasNAP, a Las Vegas-based company that said in response to questions last week that it does not disclose customer information. Recontacted on Sunday, the company did not respond immediately.
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