Tech Companies Criticized for Providing Services to Extremists
Suspected gunman Patrick Crusius uploaded a 2,300 word manifesto on 8chan’s politically incorrect board, an online message board known for attracting far-right and neo-Nazi users, shortly before launching his shooting rampage in El Paso, Texas last weekend. Subsequently, Internet infrastructure providers Cloudflare and Tucows came under fire for their provision of services to 8chan. Unfortunately—though unsurprisingly—these companies took action to sever ties to 8chan, finally taking it offline, after much “waffling” and inane justifications of free speech.
“Cloudflare, Tucows, and every other tech company must issue clear policies as well as evenly, consistently, and transparently enforce such terms,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen. “Cloudflare routinely ignores warnings about the nature of the content they are enabling, only to take credit for their reluctant decision to act well after the damage has been done. Two weeks before the El Paso murders, CEP warned Tucows that it served as a registrar for extremist sites that hosted content linked to real-world violence. If there is content that must be removed following a mass murder, there is no reason why similar material should not be removed prior to such horrific events. This is not a question of free speech. It is instead a question about whether or not companies have a conscience about providing services to sites that actively promote hate and violence.”
As CEP researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch states, “Despite taking action against 8chan and the Daily Stormer, Cloudflare has left other sites online that encourage white supremacist violence.” On July 26, CEP alerted Cloudflare of its provision of services to the website Siege Culture, which is dedicated to American neo-Nazi James Mason and his notorious book Siege. The neo-Nazi manifesto has been linked to 21 individual extremists and 11 extremist organizations. Cloudflare also provides services to a website hosting the New Zealand terror attack livestream and the neo-Nazi web forum Fascist Forge. Previously, Cloudflare only ceased providing services to neo-Nazi news site the Daily Stormer after the group “made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.”
CEP similarly warned Tucows that the company was the registrar of record for Siege Culture. Siege is today venerated by neo-Nazi groups such as the Atomwaffen Division and the Sonnenkrieg Division, members of whom are currently imprisoned for charges including possession of explosives, promoting terrorism, and murder. The website promotes and links to a PDF and audio version of Siege, as well as essays and blogposts expanding on Mason’s ideology, and the Internet Archive links to magazines from the American Nazi Party and the National Socialist Liberation Front. Siege Culture remains online.
Now that 8chan and its notorious politically incorrect message board are no longer available, former users of the site will seek alternatives. Fischer-Birch writes, “It is likely that 8chan will eventually find an Internet services company willing to do business with them, but until then, the site has remained offline. Some users have moved to an unofficial 8chan clone, while others will most likely move to the Telegram chat program.”