Cloudflare announces termination of 8chan’s service

Cloudflare has announced that it will terminate its protection of 8chan after the forum site was linked to another mass shooting over the weekend, tying the site’s “lawlessness” directly to “multiple tragic deaths”.

Pressure had mounted on the company to cease its service to 8chan, arguing that it enabled the spread of violent white supremacist rhetoric and the celebration of perpetrators of massacres. Manifestos or open letters by shooters including those responsible for the Christchurch, Poway, and El Paso shootings, all of which occurred in 2019, have been hosted on the mostly-unmoderated forums.

The security company’s CEO, Matthew Prince, had wavered in public statements on Saturday and Sunday, telling The Guardian on Saturday evening that there were no plans to terminate 8chan from the service, and that keeping it on was in fact a “moral obligation” He then told the New York Times on Sunday that he “[didn’t] know what [will] happen.”

“8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare’s service,” the statement reads. 

“We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time. The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”

Cloudflare’s statement also referenced the company’s decision in 2017 to kick neo-Nazi hub The Daily Stormer off its service. Prince and other Cloudflare employees expressed discomfort over the decision to police protected content on political grounds, but the company line was that the Stormer’s claims that Cloudflare actively supported the site’s white supremacist views forced their hand. 

Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting. They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare’s problem, but they remain the Internet’s problem.

I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chan. While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does nothing to address why mass shootings occur. It does nothing to address why portions of the population feel so disenchanted they turn to hate. In taking this action we’ve solved our own problem, but we haven’t solved the Internet’s. 

Cloudflare’s turnaround could be considered another mark against their “warrant canaries”, the internal set of standards measuring their transparency and political independence. Upon terminating the Daily Stormer in 2017, their statement noted:

“We’re going to have a long debate internally about whether we need to remove the bullet about not terminating a customer due to political pressure. It’s powerful to be able to say you’ve never done something. And, after today, make no mistake, it will be a little bit harder for us to argue against a government somewhere pressuring us into taking down a site they don’t like.”

Initial reports suggest that 8chan was down minutes after the announcement, although the site is still accessible at the time of writing.

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