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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.

Cloudfare chief executive Matthew Prince, who last week published a lengthy blog post justifying the company’s services defending Kiwi Farms, told the Washington Post that he changed his mind not because of the pressure, but an increase in credible violent threats emanating 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.

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.

Two weeks ago, Prince said 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 repeatedly doxed Sorrenti and her family, posting addresses and more, and last month called false crime reports to lure police to her home in so-called ‘swatting’ 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 post that quitting Kiwi Farms was a “dangerous” move. 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.

“It could largely advance the problem and, even worse, could even escalate as Kiwi Farms posters feel under attack,” Prince 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, as former President Donald J. Trump likened the FBI and other institutions to the organized crime.

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

“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 ost. “We need a more balanced and measured long-term approach.”

Lorenz reported from Los Angeles.