Cloudflare still loves that sweet, sweet Nazi cash

How San Francisco's Cloudflare helps serve up hate online:

Cloudflare also has an added appeal to sites such as the Daily Stormer. It turns over to the hate sites the personal information of people who criticize their content.

For instance, when a reader figures out that Cloudflare is the Internet company serving sites like the Daily Stormer, he or she sometimes write to the company to protest. Cloudflare, per its policy, then relays the name and email address of the person complaining to the hate site, often to the surprise and regret of the person complaining. This has led to campaigns of harassment against those writing in to protest the offensive material. People have been threatened and harassed. [...]

Andrew Anglin, the owner of the Daily Stormer, has been candid about how he feels about people reporting his site for its content. "We need to make it clear to all of these people that there are consequences for messing with us," Anglin wrote in one online post. "We are not a bunch of babies to be kicked around. We will take revenge. And we will do it now."

ProPublica asked Cloudflare's top lawyer about its policy of sharing information on those who complain about racist sites. The lawyer, Doug Kramer, Cloudflare's general counsel, defended the company's policies by saying it is "base constitutional law that people can face their accusers." Kramer suggested that some of the people attacking Cloudflare's customers had their own questionable motives.

"We would gleefully do business with ISIS if we were not prohibited from doing so":

Kramer, in an interview with ProPublica, reiterated that the company would not accept money from ISIS. But he said that was not for moral or ethical reasons. Rather, he said, Cloudflare did not have dealings with terrorist groups such as ISIS because there are significant and specific laws restricting it from doing so. [...]

Getting booted from service to service can make it hard to run a hate site, but Cloudflare gives the sites a solid footing. And, by the Daily Stormer's account, advice and assurances. In a post, the site's architect, Andrew Auernheimer, said he had personal relationships with people at Cloudflare, and they had assured him the company would work to protect the site in a variety of ways -- including by not turning over data to European courts. Cloudflare has data centers in European countries such as Germany, which have strict hate-speech and privacy laws.

Like I said last time:

Put yourself in this hypothetical. You own a company, called Floudclare. It is a private, for-profit corporation, not a public utility. Today, you have to pick one of the two checkboxes that read,

Be in business with actual Nazis;
Do not be in business with actual Nazis.

In a world full of gray areas, that's pretty fucking charcoal.

fMRI_guy:

As we say in Germany, if there's a Nazi at the table and 10 other people sitting there talking to him, you got a table with 11 Nazis.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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21 Responses:

  1. MattyJ says:

    If corporations are people, how do we punch Cloudflare in the face?

  2. tfb says:

    Concerning the quote from fMRI_guy. There is this weird argument that people seem able to make: that badness is somehow not transitive. So you get arguments that, well, people who knowingly vote for racists aren't necessarily, themselves racists. Yes, yes they are: if you vote for someone who wants to do a thing, then you are willing to have that thing done, and if that thing is kill a bunch of people whose skin is not the right colour then that makes you a racist. You don't have to do the killing yourself: it is enough to commission someone, by voting for them, to arrange to have it done for you.

    The bizarre thing is that this argument gets made by people like me: people who really don't want to think that the large number of people who vote for racists are racist, because it means I have to walk around realising that a really significant proportion of the people I deal with are racists. The alternative proposals seem to be that either they were too stupid to know what they were voting for, which I don't believe, or that when people get really annoyed about something they somehow become racists but just for a bit and they're not really racists at all, it's just a thing that happens if you're cross or drunk. Yeah, right: if you turn into a racist when you're cross, you're a racist.

  3. J. Peterson says:

    The linked SF Chron article is from a couple years ago, here is a more recent take.

    They did pull the plug on the Stormer, but apparently still serve plenty of other creepy sites. But they don't get paid for them, since most qualify for a free tier of service.

    "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department"
    says Wherner von Braun

    • jwz says:

      Oops, I didn't notice the date. Though it doesn't sound like anything has changed.

      Unsurprisingly, Fast Company can't reconcile "on the one hand nazis are bad, on the other hand Cloudflare makes a lot of money" and goes with a "both sides" narrative.

      • James says:

        Now the Stormer is hosted by Silviu Sirbu, a Romanian New Yorker whose Bucharest-based ISP company, Voxility.com, specializes in spammers and clients who need DDOS protection. There's no hint of anyone ever complaining to them.

      • Lloyd says:

        but Nazi gold is still gold!

  4. Nick says:

    Alice More: Arrest him!
    More: Why, what has he done?
    Margaret More: He's bad!
    More: There is no law against that.
    Will Roper: There is! God's law!
    More: Then God can arrest him.
    Alice: While you talk, he's gone!
    More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
    Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
    More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man's laws, not God's– and if you cut them down—and you're just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake.

    Some might distinguish between a private company doing business with bad people and the government extending the protection of the law to bad people, but why are Nazis using Cloud Flare? Because if they don't they will be DDoS'd off the net. ISPs and DDoS protection sites may not be public utilities, but functionally they are pretty close. I think there is value in the moral principle of free speech in addition to the legal principle.

    • jwz says:

      If Cloudflare is providing government services, then nationalize them. They want the protections of being governmental infrastructure without the responsibilities. Even PG&E is more heavily regulated.

      • Nick Lamb says:

        Given that Cloudflare is a global service, it hardly seems as though nationalizing them so that they'd be under the control of the bullshitter and his gang of grifters is an improvement.

        Infrastructure may well be too important to trust to mere governments, that's how we got the Congress of Vienna (the Rhine is much too important to entrust to the national governments of countries it passes through, so the world's oldest international organisation was set up to manage it, if the Rhine passes through your country that's not yours, and you don't get to make the rules for the bit in your country)

        • jwz says:

          It's almost like transnational corporations are a problem in some way!!

          • Nick Lamb says:

            It's always weird to run into people who are simultaneously so angry about Nazis and yet so fiercely parochial. Weird, but alas far from uncommon.

            The problem is the Nation State. Cloudflare is the right shape and size to do what they do, but sovereignty rests at this uncomfortable sub-regional level and the Nation State comes with exactly the baggage you'd ideally give to an entity if you wanted more Nazis. Maybe it's less visible in San Francisco in 2017 where you're apparently posting from, than here and now where I am. It's on my list of things that kids won't probably really grasp from their history books a century from now, along with the personal automobile and perhaps more relevantly to you, the nightclub.

      • Nick says:

        I don't think they are providing government services, they are providing services (blocking DDoS attacks) where national governments have failed. As far as I'm aware they haven't asked for any government protections, they're just doing what they think is right, even at the risk of losing customers who disagree.

        Based on your comments in your previous post about Cloudflare, we have very different ideas of where the division between private sector and government should lie. Despite that, I think we'd likely agree that centralizing most of the Internet infrastructure in the hands of a small number of corporations (mostly incumbent telcos and cable companies who succeed not because they provide a better service, but because of duopolies and crony capitalism) decide what viewpoints are allowed on the Internet is not good.

        If Cloudflare (or any ISP / CDN / company that functionality controlled if a controversial viewpoint could remain on the Internet) was a public utility would you be ok with them disallowing legal speech?

        • jwz says:

          Me: "These people -- actual human people, not corporations, not parliaments -- have purposefully chosen to be in business with nazis. That's bad. They are bad people. Only bad people do that."

          You and almost everyone else: "I'm not even going to acknowledge the assertion you are making because instead I'd like to focus on this hypothetical redesign of the internet and the modern nation-state that will never, ever happen. I can't bring myself to say 'doing business with nazis is bad and you shouldn't do it' because...." because I don't even know why.

          • Nick says:

            Yes, they (real people, but I would feel the same about corporations or parliaments) are doing business with Nazis and I support their decision to do so. I think it's more important to prevent censorship (by private companies or the government) and allow the open exchange of ideas, even repugnant ideas, than it is to avoid doing business with Nazis. I think the best remedy for bad speech is more speech.

            I also agree with and was amused by the ACLU's decision to defend the rights of Illinois Nazis by sending a Jewish lawyer to represent them in court.

  5. Mike says:

    Cloudflare also protects a lot of sites about hacking, piracy, etc, and "it protects [terrorists/nazis/etc]" is possibly the first pebble toward justifying outsiders demanding their wash their hands of that content, as well.

    But while I support them providing the service they do, I sure as hell don't support them giving nazis people's contact information without their consent. Base constitutional law, my ass.

    • jwz says:

      Again, the "slippery slope" argument is bullshit. Cloudflare's management have made the decision to be in business with nazis. Whether they have also made the decision to be in business with "sites about hacking" or whatever is irrelevant and orthogonal.

      They have chosen to be in business with nazis -- and doubled down on it. And I judge them for that decision. They are terrible people.

  6. bibulb says:

    Say what you will about Cloudflare, though, but at least they're as diligent in protecting sex worker sites as they are protecting sites with child porn or Nazis, an-

    [pauses, puts finger to imaginary earpiece]

    OH, GODDAMNIT, COME THE FUCK ON

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