Cloudflare: Rationalizing Complicity
Okay, this is an important thing that has happened over the last 24 hrs: Cloudflare shut off service to 8chan, and 8chan is now down. There is a whole lot to unpack about this story...
Firstly some background... it's important to understand why Cloudflare is so pervasive and why it comes up with stories like this about 8chan and Daily Stormer. Cloudflare isn't a hosting provider, it isn't directly responsible for the site's domain name or the actual machine running the software; cloudflare is a security buffer for the internet and what it does is pretty unique and useful. It helps protect a website or other internet services from certain categories of attack. From a certain level of server anonymity to denial-of-service attack mitigation, Cloudflare can be a beautifully useful tool for dissidents, non-profits, independent journalists, and decent content creators of all sorts. It also attracts the most despicable of actors trying to make their hate speech and vitriol and violent incel incubators as available as possible.
So... what's the big deal about 8chan getting the boot? It's now open mother fucking season on that cesspool of racism and misogyny. Hence why that scumbucket of an internet site is currently down (as of the time of this writing).
Anyways back to Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare with his own brand of see-no-evil, lazy ass, morally emaciated libertarianism... Prince (yes the infosec mogul not the war profiteer of Blackwater infamy (no known relation cause I have better things to do on wikipedia, so WHO KNOWS?!))... anyways, Prince did the most basic shit finally under immense pressure but for all the wrong reasons.
He is right about one thing: this won't stop 8chan from being online. Whether via slow ass tor or though some even more ethically bankrupt net service co, 8chan can zombie its way back to all the pathetic rage-filled forums of frustrated, violent white men. But it'll be hampered somewhat... some link that doesnt open on a standard browser, some space more vulnerable to DDoS, made slightly less available for mainstream consumption...
But all this aside, Prince's narrative about content neutrality isn't about some profound issue of ethics or slippery slopes; it is simply rationale for his complicity. Does refusing service to literal neo-nazis make it more likely to bend to oppressive regimes when they apply pressure? No. It just means your business isn't functionally enabling neo-nazis. In fact, Prince's emphasis on U.S. laws completely undermines whatever sanctimonious soap box he thinks he's standing on... so as long as a regime that cages immigrants in concentration camps can ink up a court order from an administration appointee, Cloudflare is more than happy to turn over whatever records right quick... so much for privacy/security. But refusing service to white supremacists and future domestic terrorists, woa woa woa, “we're not like the internet police”
Prince is either unfathomably naive or very much aligned with the internet bigot party he has fought so hard to shield; deciphering which is not nearly as important as recognizing that this is not someone who should have nearly as much power as he has in the digital world.
Imagine a Terms of Service agreement that simply stated the following: “Under no circumstances will we provide services to companies, organizations, or individuals promoting (or failing to moderate) racist, misogynistic, or bigoted content. Clear violation of these content standards is cause for immediate service termination.”
Clear. Unambiguous. Replicable. Basic. Fuck these fake arguments about neutrality and ethical quandaries about content moderation. Establish values and then hold to them fiercely. Matthew Prince is a coward and an enabler.