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Cloudflare, a web infrastructure company, pulled its services from Kiwi Farms, a notorious hate site, on Saturday afternoon, just days after publishing a statement suggesting that it would not do so. The move came after mounting pressure from a social media campaign directed at Cloudflare, led by a trans woman who was harassed and swatted after her personal information was posted on the website and an NBC News report discussed her experience and Kiwi Farms’ long history of fomenting harassment and abuse.
On Wednesday, Cloudflare issued a statement about its abuse policies that, while not directly addressing the campaign or Kiwi Farms itself, indicated that it would not be taking action against the website. “Terminating security services for content that our team personally feels is disgusting and immoral would be the popular choice. But, in the long term, such choices make it more difficult to protect content that supports oppressed and marginalized voices against attacks,” the company said.
On Saturday, however, Cloudflare issued a new statement announcing that it had blocked Kiwi Farms, forcing it offline, due to “an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life.”
“Visitors to any of the Kiwi Farms sites that use any of Cloudflare’s services will see a Cloudflare block page and a link to this post,” CEO Matthew Prince said. “Kiwi Farms may move their sites to other providers and, in doing so, come back online, but we have taken steps to block their content from being accessed through our infrastructure.”
“This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and, given Cloudflare’s role as an Internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with. However, the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and specific, targeted threats have escalated over the last 48 hours,” Prince said. “Feeling attacked, users of the site became even more aggressive.”
Prince emphasized that Cloudflare was not taking action as a result of the #DropKiwiFarms campaign, but due to the increased threats posted on the website over the past 48 hours.
The owner of Kiwi Farms, Josh “Null” Moon, responded to the website being blocked in a short message on Telegram. “If there is any threat to life on the site, I have received no communication from any law enforcement,” he said, adding that the decision to block Kiwi Farms was done “without discussion” and he had only received “a vague suspension notice.”
Cloudflare is a web services company that provides security services to websites, including protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks — a cybercrime wherein attackers flood a website’s server with traffic so that it can no longer be accessed.
The company does not moderate content, and until Saturday it had only publicly ended professional relationships with two other controversial websites. Following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, it dropped neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer after the team behind the website claimed Cloudflare’s staff were “secretly supporters of their ideology.” In 2019, Cloudflare terminated services to the message board 8chan after a mass shooter who killed 23 people in El Paso, Texas, posted to the website immediately before opening fire.
Cloudflare did not host Kiwi Farms, but provided it with security services which protected it from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Shortly after Cloudflare pulled its services, the KiwiFarms website served a message saying it was “blocked.”
Kiwi Farms was a forum site devoted to following the activities of and compiling information on individuals its members dubbed “lolcows” — people who could be “milked” for entertainment. Many of these people were neurodivergent and/or members of the LGBTQ community. The site was described as “the web’s biggest community of stalkers” in a 2016 New York Magazine profile and was recently dubbed “an extremist-friendly forum that has been the breeding ground for countless harassment campaigns” by the Anti-Defamation League.
Earlier this month, Canadian Twitch streamer and transgender rights activist Clara “Keffals” Sorrenti was the victim of swatting after her personal information was posted on Kiwi Farms. Swatting is a dangerous harassment tactic wherein police are called to an individual’s home under false pretenses — in this case, someone posing as Sorrenti reportedly threatened a mass shooting. This experience caused Sorrenti to start the #DropKiwiFarms campaign to get the website shut down — specifically by pushing Cloudflare to terminate the vital security and infrastructure services that kept it online.
Sorrenti left her home for her safety, but Kiwi Farms members were able to use her social media posts to pinpoint her location, even after she traveled to Europe in an attempt to keep her location unknown. “It’s been a nightmare,” Sorrenti told NBC News. “I constantly have this lingering thought in the back of my head, ‘What are they up to? Are they planning something? Is there going to be another escalation?’”
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