Two days after it tried to have it both ways by keeping the Daily Stormer as a client, Cloudflare has reversed course and pulled its services, which protect websites against denial-of-service attacks.
Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told The Verge that he decided to end its association with the neo-Nazi site after realizing that supports of that site’s hateful ideology were starting to consider Cloudflare an ally to their cause. After a woman protesting a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va. was killed by a white supremacist on Saturday, the Daily Stormer published a demeaning article about the victim, and that decision has sent Daily Stormer’s tech suppliers running in the days since.
GoDaddy was the first to act, revoking the domain name registration that Daily Stormer had used to deploy its site to the internet, and Google declined to come to its rescue. Discord, Facebook, Twitter, and Squarespace have all cut ties with the Daily Stormer and other white supremacist movements and individuals using their services.
Cloudflare’s services allow companies to defend themselves against distributed denial-of-service attacks — which essentially flood a site’s servers with traffic making it inaccessible to everyone — by spreading a site’s traffic across a huge distributed network. It doesn’t host websites, but it allows victims of harassment and controversial sites alike to stay online.
In its first statement on the matter on Monday, Cloudflare tried to argue that pulling its services wouldn’t remove the Daily Stormer from the internet, which is an annoying exercise in semantics. Without those services, however, attacks forced the Daily Stormer to a web host based in Russia and the site eventually went offline on Wednesday afternoon.
Tech companies that have long argued they aren’t responsible for policing legal content are finding themselves on the defensive since the events of the weekend, which also injured 20 people. Prince didn’t sound very enthusiastic about the next time he has to decide whether or not to boot a paying customer in his comments to the Verge.
“I think that we as the internet need to have a conversation about where the right place for content restriction is…but there was no way we could have that conversation until we resolved this particular issue,” Prince told The Verge.
And in an incredible email to staff, obtained by Gizmodo, Prince was even blunter.
“Having made that decision we now need to talk about why it is so dangerous. I’ll be posting something on our blog later today. Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.”
Update: Cloudflare reached out to share Prince’s post, which can be found here.