Internet infrastructure giant Cloudflare has stopped providing its security services to anti-trans harassment forum Kiwi Farms after a global campaign pressured the provider to act.
In a blog post on the weekend, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said it was an “extraordinary decision” and one which his company is “not comfortable with”, saying his company is “committed […] to protecting our customers even when they run deeply afoul of popular opinion or even our own morals”.
Cloudflare had been providing DDoS protection for Kiwi Farms, a forum notorious for anti-trans hate speech that often culminates in harmful forms of harassment like publicly sharing personal information about people (doxing) and making false police reports that result in raids (swatting).
Harassment campaigns from the Kiwi Farms community have contributed to at least three known suicides.
Clara Sorrenti, a Twitch streamer and trans activist who goes by the screen name ‘Keffals’, has experienced the Kiwi Farms abuse first-hand and led the public campaign to knock Kiwi Farms offline.
In a statement following Cloudflare’s decision to stop protecting Kiwi Farms, Sorrenti said the world was “a better place” now the site is down.
“The countless victims of Kiwi Farms can sleep soundly knowing that the site is doomed, will never regain it’s [sic] former momentum, and will continue to bleed followers and become more and more irrelevant with each passing week,” she said.
Just last month, Sorrenti’s Canadian home was raided after local councillors received emailed threats signed with the name Sorrenti used before her transition.
Feeling unsafe at her home, Sorrenti left for a hotel but was tracked down because she posted a single photo of her cat on a hotel bed.
“They crossreferenced the bedsheets in the picture of my cat with other local hotels until they found a match,” Sorrenti tweeted.
Before I left the continent the Uber accounts belonging to me and every member of my immediate family were hacked and our phone numbers and addresses were posted online. This was in retaliation for the Drop Kiwi Farms campaign. This is the call everyone in my family received. pic.twitter.com/NV1iy860gh— Keffals (@keffals) September 1, 2022
Sorrenti left Canada for Ireland where she was again tracked down by users from KiwiFarms, one of whom posted a picture of himself standing outside her new temporary home.
Fed up with the constant abuse, Sorrenti drew public support for a campaign to take KiwiFarms offline by appealing directly to its service providers.
An internet utility
Cloudflare initially resisted the public pressure, posting a blog from its CEO and its Head of Public Policy Alissa Starzak that defended its services as being akin to “internet utilities”.
Cloudflare previously stopped servicing image board 8chan offline after the perpetrator of a mass shooting posted his manifesto on the site. It also stopped servicing openly Nazi site the Daily Stormer.
“Just as the telephone company doesn't terminate your line if you say awful, racist, bigoted things, we have concluded in consultation with politicians, policy makers, and experts that turning off security services because we think what you publish is despicable is the wrong policy,” Prince and Starzak wrote last week.
“To be clear, just because we did it in a limited set of cases before doesn’t mean we were right when we did. Or that we will ever do it again.”
In that post, the Cloudflare said it tries to take the moral high ground by providing services for paying customers and then using the money to donate to relevant causes, including organisations that support LGBTQI+ rights, as if to cancel out taking the money in the first place.
“We don't and won't talk about these efforts publicly because we don't do them for marketing purposes; we do them because they are aligned with what we believe is morally correct,” Prince and Starzak said.
A few days after that blog was posted, Cloudflare had essentially turned off access to Kiwi Farms – without DDoS protection, the site is doomed to suffer an endless attack of server requests aimed at bringing it down – with Prince warning that cutting off the community will make its members “feel even more isolated and attacked and may lash out further”.
A notice from Cloudflare appears when trying to access Kiwi Farms.
“There is real risk that by taking this action today we may have further heightened the emergency,” he said.
But by all indications, Kiwi Farms has failed to find other clearnet providers. Josh Moon, the forum’s owner and maintainer, said in a Telegram group that the site was dropped by Russian company DDoS-Guard within a day and admitted his site was destined to be relegated to the fringes of the internet.
“I do not see a situation where the Kiwi Farms is simply allowed to operate,” he said.
“It will either become a fractured shell of itself, like 8chan, or jump between hosts and domain names like Daily Stormer.”