Digital Ocean and Cloudflare ditch neo-Nazi client, The Daily Stormer – TechCrunch
Following the violent far right demonstrations in Charlottesville at the weekend, another two web services companies have terminated their business relationships with the Nazi propaganda website, The Daily Stormer.
The Daily Stormer, which spews racist, gender-based and homophobic hate speech on a daily basis, was used as a platform to helpÂ organize a violent white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville â and, afterwards, to celebrate the killing of anti-fascist protestor Heather Heyer, who died after a far right supporter drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors.
Earlier today cloud hosting platform Digital Ocean was publicly called out on Twitter for providing services to both The Daily Stormer and pro-hate speech crowdfunding platform Hatreon.
The latter has been embraced by the self-styled âalt-rightâ on account of its lack of hate speech guidelines. Other similar fundraising services, including Patreon and PayPal, do have terms of service prohibiting hate speech and have been known to terminate accounts deemed to be promoting hate speech â pushing neo-Nazis to alternative platforms such as Hatreon.
A few hours after entrepreneur Ryan Block tweeted the above, drawing attention to Digital Oceanâs business relationship with The Daily Stormer, the company responded via Twitter to say its team had âinvestigated and determined this site violates our TOS by inciting violence or hate crimesâ. âWeâve terminated their account,â it added.
In a further tweet-reply Digital Ocean confirmed it had also terminated Hatreonâs account.
We have questions in to Digital Ocean and expect an official response shortly â weâll update this post when we have it.
A former Digital Ocean employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told TechCrunch: âDO is filled with lots of different people but most seemed care about equality, and were strongly opposed to hate. Further, as a corporation concerned with profit, Iâm sure if hate sites are hosted there, they wonât be for long, as itâd affect the bottom line.â
Reached for comment on Digital Oceanâs decision, a Hatreon spokesman described it as âsummary and regrettableâ. âMeant for appeasement and likely in bad faith. Weâve respectfully asked to appeal but donât believe they will provide a process,â he added.
At the time of writing The Daily Stormer appears to be offline again â and thereâs a good reason for that: Cloudflare, which had been providing denial of service protection to the website, has apparently also bowed to public pressure and terminated the siteâs subscription.
JournalistÂ Matthew Sheffield tweeted the news earlier,Â pointing to a post by The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin on social media site Gab apparently showing a screengrab of an email from Cloudflare informing him his Cloudflare Pro subscription is ending ânowâ.
Weâve reached out to Cloudflare for confirmation and comment, and will update this post when we hear back.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for the company avoided answering direct questions put to it about its ongoing business relationship with The Daily Stormer in light of events in Charlottesville, saying only that: âCloudflareÂ is aware of the concerns that have been raised over some sites that have used our network. We find the content on some of these sites repugnant. While our policy is to not comment on any user specifically, we are cooperating with law enforcement in any investigation.â
Update: Company founder Matthew Prince has now blogged at length about his decision to terminate The Daily Stormerâs account, saying: âThe tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.â
âOur team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, weâve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare,â he added.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for the company avoided answering direct questions put to it about its ongoing business relationship with The Daily Stormer in light of events in Charlottesville, saying only that: âCloudflare is aware of the concerns that have been raised over some sites that have used our network. We find the content on some of these sites repugnant. While our policy is to not comment on any user specifically, we are cooperating with law enforcement in any investigation.â
After confirming his decision to terminate The Daily Stormerâs subscription, Prince goes on to detail his wider concerns around regulating content online, arguing that if powerful web infrastructure service providers generally step away from a neutral position over content they risk opening up the web to a de facto system of vigilante justice by hackers launching DDoS attacks.
âYou, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormerâs site is vile. You may believe it should be restricted. You may think the authors of the site should be prosecuted. Reasonable people can and do believe all those things. But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice,â he writes.
âWithout a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online,â he argues, noting that Cloudflare currently handles around 10 per cent of Internet requests.
He also suggests that Cloudflareâs decision to terminate The Daily Stormer will make it harder for the company to push back against governments applying political pressure against a site âthey donât likeâ in future.
He ends by suggesting there should be discussions between major tech platforms and services companies, such as Cloudflare, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon, to try to find a common framework for content restrictions. âI donât know the right answer, but I do know that as we work it out itâs critical we be clear, transparent, consistent and respectful of Due Process,â he adds.
Several other tech firms had already responded to public outcry over fascist violence following Charlottesville by pulling the plug on The Daily Stormer â including GoDaddy, Google, SendGrid and Zoho. Despite that, the neo-Nazi propaganda site came briefly back online â after apparently being able to find a new domain hostÂ â before going down again, lacking the support of Cloudflareâs CDN.
News is continuing to drop about other tech firms taking action against hate speech â includingÂ Spotify removing music associated with white supremacists from its streaming service, and Squarespace terminating multiple âalt rightâ websites.
Social media giants have also been stepping up anti-hate speech action, including banning white supremacist accounts (Twitter), and removing links to The Daily Stormer article that celebrated the death of Heyer (Facebook).
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also posted a public comment relating to this action, in which he writes: âThere is no place for hate in our community. Thatâs why weâve always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism â including what happened in Charlottesville. With the potential for more rallies, weâre watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm. We wonât always be perfect, but you have my commitment that weâll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe.â