Cloudflare, 8chan|Aug 05, 2019|Joshua Fisher-Birch, Content Review Specialist

Cloudflare’s Inconsistent Standards on White Supremacist Content

In a significant move, Matthew Prince, the CEO of the web infrastructure and security company Cloudflare, announced on August 5 that the company would cease providing services to the notorious forum 8chan. In his blog, following the El Paso terrorist attack, Prince rightfully stated that 8chan had “proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths.” Cloudflare has only publicly announced that they would cease providing services to one other site in August 2017, when they cut ties with the neo-Nazi news site the Daily Stormer. In Prince’s words, Cloudflare decided that the last straw with the Daily Stormer was that they “made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.” While Cloudflare’s eventual actions in both cases are commendable, the company has a careless attitude towards violent white supremacist sites as shown by their lack of consistency in their refusal to remove similar content.

The terrorist attack in El Paso, in which 22 people were killed and at least 24 injured, was the third case where the alleged perpetrator posted a white supremacist manifesto on 8chan’s “politically incorrect” message board before the event. The alleged perpetrators of the Christchurch mosque attacks and the Poway synagogue shooting had also left announcements on 8chan. In the following months, fellow users of the politically incorrect board celebrated the attackers, encouraged more violence, and mocked the victims. A post made just three days before the El Paso shooting praised the Christchurch attacker stating he was “The first of many.”

Despite taking action against 8chan and the Daily Stormer, Cloudflare has left other sites online that encourage white supremacist violence. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) alerted Cloudflare on July 26 to their provision of services to the Siege Culture website, which is dedicated to the American neo-Nazi James Mason and his notorious book Siege. The neo-Nazi anthology encourages acts of racial terrorism and a leaderless guerilla movement to destroy the federal government. Siege has been linked to 21 individual extremists and 11 extremist organizations. Members of one of those organizations, the Atomwaffen Division, have been linked to acts of violence including murder, assault, and the stockpiling of explosives. Despite these “lawless” actions, Cloudflare declined to take action against Siege Culture.

Cloudflare provides services to other white supremacist websites that promote violence. A website dedicated to the alleged Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant hosts BitTorrent links for the video of the massacre and the manifesto, which can also be downloaded as a PDF. The website is accessible with a New Zealand IP address. Additionally, Cloudflare provides web services to the neo-Nazi web forum Fascist Forge, whose users have previously posted bomb-making guides and encouraged violence including terrorism, assassinations, and the rape and murder of women.

Cloudflare’s inconsistent approach to violent white supremacist content shows that they have taken action only in the face of public condemnation. Cloudflare is a profit-making enterprise that can choose with whom it conducts business. It is hypocritical to cease providing services to the Daily Stormer and 8chan, while permitting other websites to use their company’s services to spread violent ideologies and encourage terrorism—so long as it is done quietly and not under public scrutiny.