Cloudflare, an internet security company and content delivery network, announced on September 3 that it will no longer provide services to Kiwi Farms, a hate website primarily targeting the queer community, Jews, minorities, and women. Cloudflare’s announcement followed the successful Drop Kiwi Farms campaign led by Clara Sorrenti, aka Keffals, a transgender Canadian Twitch streamer.
Sorrenti launched her campaign after she found herself a victim of swatting—when someone reports false allegations to law enforcement about someone else. In the case of Sorrenti, someone told police she planned to go on a shooting spree—completely false allegations that led to Sorrenti being surrounded by Canadian police.
Kiwi Farms is a vehicle for crowdsourcing hate and coordinating campaigns to harass individuals its adherents deem undesirable. LGBT influencers are targeted in unison by Kiwi Farms users, generally finding themselves doxxed and sometimes harassed on the street. Several trans individuals are believed to have been driven to suicide after being relentlessly targeted in these hateful Kiwi Farms campaigns.
After Sorrenti was swatted and continually harassed, she launched her Drop Kiwi Farms campaign, which quickly gained supporters on social media. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, however, was very hesitant to comply. The company released a statement:
“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.”
A few days after that statement, the company published a blog post in which it reversed its decision, saying company leadership consulted with authorities who determined that Kiwi Farms has created an “unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life.” In the same post, the company posted that it is aware that their actions might end up having the reverse effect and “fan the flames” of hate even more.
In other words, the company agreed to drop Kiwi Farms but was extremely uncomfortable doing so.
This is not the first time that Cloudflare has been faced with a dilemma (and likely not the last). In 2017, the internet company dropped the neo-Nazi site, The Daily Stormer, after a woman was killed at a protest promoted by the site. Cloudflare also dropped the notorious hate site 8chan in 2019 following the El Paso, TX shooting.
Is This the End of Kiwi Farms?
Once Cloudflare dropped Kiwi Farms, the site bounced around between several internet companies, but even DDos-Guard, the company that hosts the Hamas website and Parler, turned Kiwi Farms away. As of this writing, Kiwi Farms is not operational. It has also been removed from the Internet Archive.
While Kiwi Farms may pop up again, Sorrenti considers her campaign a definitive win. Even Kiwi Farms founder Josh Moon does not envision his site ever coming completely back online.
Kiwi Farms Has Forced Tech Companies to Face Their Roles as Content Moderators
Hate site Kiwi Farms may have been booted offline, but more hate platforms can easily arise. Tech companies, as a generalization, shy away from policing online content and rarely act, as is evidenced by Cloudflare’s reluctance to do anything about Kiwi Farms in the beginning.
In extreme cases, governments step in. After the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, the government banned Kiwi Farms. Following the current debacle, Iceland blocked the website.
However, government action at this point is rare. While that may change in the future, the reality is that tech companies need to recognize hate platforms before they lead to violent crimes, not after.
Tech companies may not have asked for this type of power, but it is what they have. Now they must wield it wisely.
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