Bay Area CEO wakes up mad and sends neo-Nazi website to its doom

Few may pity the Daily Stormer, the neo-Nazi website hounded out of the internet domain registries of GoDaddy and Google after its vicious rhetorical attack on the woman killed in the recent alt-right violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Many feel different emotions than pity toward this site, and the anger of one man led to another punishing blow against it.

On Aug. 16, Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, a San Francisco firm that provides protective services to websites, started the day irate — and decided to withdraw online protection from company client the Daily Stormer. Stripping that protection would in effect make it impossible for the site to operate, as it’s a target for groups wanting to knock it offline.

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet,” Prince said in a note to employees obtained by Gizmodo. “My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are (anatomical profanity) and I’d had enough.”

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Having his company embraced by white supremacists pushed him to his decision, he told Gizmodo.

“The Daily Stormer site was bragging on their bulletin boards about how Cloudflare was one of them and that is the opposite of everything we believe,” Prince said. “That was the tipping point for me.”

Still, Prince said he was not comfortable with the way he exercised his power, describing his choice to withdraw services from the Daily Stormer as arbitrary.

“It was a decision I could make because I’m the CEO of a major internet infrastructure company,” he said. “Having made that decision we now need to talk about why it is so dangerous. No one should have that power.”

In a blog post later on Aug. 16, Prince noted that Cloudflare’s withdrawal of protection would send a site like the Daily Stormer to its doom at the hands of activist hackers deploying Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) bombardment attacks.

“The size and scale of the attacks that can now easily be launched online make it such that if you don’t have a network like Cloudflare in front of your content, and you upset anyone, you will be knocked offline,” he wrote. “In fact, in the case of the Daily Stormer, the initial requests we received to terminate their service came from hackers who literally said: ‘Get out of the way so we can DDoS this site off the Internet.'”

Prince acknowledged that he’d thrown the site to the wolves — or rather to online vigilantes.

“You, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormer’s 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,” he wrote.

A company colleague noted the import of Prince’s move against the neo-Nazi site.

“Someone on our team asked after I announced we were going to terminate the Daily Stormer: ‘Is this the day the Internet dies?'” Prince wrote.

“He was half joking, but only half. He’s no fan of the Daily Stormer or sites like it. But he does realize the risks of a company like Cloudflare getting into content policing.”

Prince called for a clear framework for regulation of online content, in an age where control over content falls to a small number of big players.

“In a not-so-distant future, if we’re not there already, it may be that if you’re going to put content on the internet you’ll need to use a company with a giant network like Cloudflare, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, or Alibaba,” he wrote.

“Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.”

The Daily Stormer moved to a Russian domain registry, but it was not accessible on the evening of Aug. 16.

“You’ve requested a page on a website (dailystormer.ru) that is on the Cloudflare network,” said a message that appeared when SiliconBeat attempted to visit the site. “Cloudflare is currently unable to resolve your requested domain (dailystormer.ru).”

On Thursday, Radio Free Europe reported that the Daily Stormer’s new Russian web host had suspended the site after the Russian government media regulator asked it to probe “extremist content” on the site. An attempt Thursday by this news organization to access the site showed it was offline.

Free-internet group the Electronic Frontier Foundation slammed the moves by Cloudflare, Google and GoDaddy against the Daily Stormer.

“We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare did here was dangerous,” the EFF said in a blog post.

“That’s because, even when the facts are the most vile, we must remain vigilant when platforms exercise these rights. Because Internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world.

“We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love.”

 

Photo: In this Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, photo, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va. (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP, File)

 

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  • Myron Marvin

    Since when does Matthew Prince get to decide who free speech applies to? Who will he shut down next? Pro-LGBT, Pro-life? When does it stop?

    • pirate81

      I get what your saying, but he runs a private company. He can deny service to anyone. No shoes, no shirt, no service. I guess in this case, no Nazis.

    • M Q

      Did you read and understand the article? Matthew Prince is cautioning about the kind of power that he has. But “free speech” is about government restrictions on speech, not private company restrictions.

    • Kalmanaka

      He did not shut anyone down. You really should read articles before commenting on them. It’s an even better idea to understand what CloudFlare is and what service they provide. If you did, you’d know that it’s not even possible for them to shut anyone down.

    • Prefiero Figurados

      Two things:
      1) This is not a freedom of speech issue. You apparently don’t understand Constitutional law — at all.
      2) This kind of thing will continue — slowly — until the left has purged the majority of right/conservative voices from the Internet. The justification for doing so is baked into the Terms of Service for most services.

    • gogobeardaddy

      He doesn’t.

      He gets to decide who he wants to be his customer.

      You DO want companies to be able to deny service to gays and minorities, right?

  • Zeezladon

    Internet 2017: Now Sanitized For Your Protection.

    • Nicholas Maietta

      They don’t like the statues? Well, i’m offended by their rhetoric and propaganda. I say they should lose their voice too. It’s everyone or nobody.

  • hoapres

    so much for freedom of speech.

    • Alan

      They are free to speak. They aren’t free to use Cloudflare as a shield.

    • gogobeardaddy

      Read the constitution dumb ass…actually READ IT versus just quoting what Stormfront told you to say at times like these…

      • hoapres

        I did read it.

        More than once.

        So there.

        • gogobeardaddy

          Really?

          So how about you show the class where it says “I can say whatever I want without repercussions”?

          What about the part that says “Private companies are obligated to give me a platform for my hate speech?

          Go ahead….we’ll wait…

          • hoapres

            Actually you can say anything you want.

            Really you can.

  • anonymon

    There is no moral ambiguity about opposing Nazis. iF more people had done so in the 1930’s perhaps Hitler would never have gained power. Gandhi said that non-violent resistance never have worked against Nazis because they were morally bankrupt. Dealing with this level of evil is truly difficult in a free society but granting rights to those with no conscience can be self destructive.

  • KimJongicrat

    So why is there a new black panther website still up? BLM? Communists of America? It used to be membership to that group led you to be investigated by FBI.

    Today if you are hetrosexual white Christian male you get investigated by everything the Alt-Left has touched.

    I is NO WAY support or agree with Nazi/racist groups – I just call for equal action across the board. Why do left wing hate groups get a pass?

    • beach_dude

      Well, let’s see. If you can find content similar to what the DS posted on those websites and if they stand for vile and ugly ideas as they do, I’m sure the CEO will knock them down too.

      • KimJongicrat

        Asking for the destruction of whitey?

        Telling white students they must submit because they are white and have “privilege”?

        • gogobeardaddy

          Yes. Exactly. Where are these websites you speak of, and then feel free to advocate that they be brought down as well.

          URLs please…

    • Nicholas Maietta

      I’m white and i didn’t vote for Hillary. I have been attacked a lot lately for telling people publicly to stop being violent towards eachother and to get away from the crowds who are obviously falling in the Mob Mentality. These alt-left and alt-rights are trying to drag people onto one side or the other and i’m not falling for that. They are creating the war i don’t want to be involved in but if they bring the war to my turf, i will be forced to kill to protect myself. That is not something i want to ever do in my life, but if they bring it, it will happen.

      • gogobeardaddy

        Yeah…you are another White Nationalist hiding behind “equality”, which REALLY means “things should stay as they are”.

        Libertarian too, I bet…

        • hoapres

          Tough Luck

          The old “We are victim” card has been played too long.

          Sorry, that’s the way it is.

        • Nicholas Maietta

          Calling me names like White Nationalist, and making assumptions about me, saying i’m hiding behind “equality” and assuming that i’m a libertarian is not helping. I take offense to all of that because i’m definitely none of that. I wanted Bernie because i couldn’t trust Hillary OR Trump. To be fully honest here, i don’t even support the idea a country should have a President. I fail to see how that differs from having a Ruling King of the land. We as a society keep complaining that we don’t want Trump because he is evil, but that would only be an issue if we are treating him just like a King. Our government doesn’t work like that, thankfully. I dealt with bullies way too much as a kid and as a teen and even through my adult life. I don’t need you bullying me either with your assumptions of me. You are totally wrong about me.

    • gogobeardaddy

      “I in NO WAY support or agree with Nazi/racist groups”

      Bullshit…

      “Today if you are hetrosexual white Christian male you get investigated by everything the Alt-Left has touched.”

      And that is how I know…

    • NewRep

      Where have you been? the communists are welcome to the US.

  • Rock Lobster

    They are a private company so they can deny service to another private company that does not represent a “protected class,” but I wonder if they violated a contract. That would be an interesting lawsuit if the website then gets hacked and they can prove damages.

    • beach_dude

      I’m sure the contract has a mutual termination clause in it, as nobody likes to be locked in for longer than a month and Daily Stormer’s revenue probably wasn’t enough to warrant a longer term.

      • Rock Lobster

        Probably

  • charlie hustle

    i think you probably are asking for more trouble when you collude to suppress these whackos rather than letting them have the voices heard. You’re basically creating a powder keg that will eventually explode.
    And no one wants to talk about why these groups rise up in the first place. Similar to 1930’s Germany, economic downturn causes the citizens to look for someone to blame. And history shows that is most frequently the outsiders (aka immigrants).

    • Reed More

      We can’t shut these websites down for the same reasons we can’t let our government subpoena and threaten journalists. It will change who we are as a country. I agree with your premise but also want to point out the hypocrisy of the issue. The right wants a law to protect religious freedom to not do business with those who have beliefs that offend the provider of the service, but scream 1st Amendment when white supremacists are shunned. Authoritarianism seems to be the easiest answer, but the wider implications must be considered.

  • Lysander Spooner

    Meanwhile Cloudflare still provides service to ISIS.

    • Alan

      Could you provide evidence for that claim?

  • Thelip95032

    The Alt-Left should look very hard at their role in the Charlottesville death, I agree with Trump on this one all sides share blame. The Alt -Right was there ( permitted) to hold a rally to object to the removal of Robert E. Lee statue ( not scheduled to happen that day). Alt-Left showed up trying to not let Alt-right speak, they wanted to suppress Alt-right speech because they don’t like their views.

    Hate speech is protected by first amendment (supreme court ruling) and for all of us to be protected by the first amendment we have to allow people to give speeches that we don’t like. We must protect them not matter what, other wise someday your speech will be prohibited because it is deemed hate speech (Abraham Lincoln used this tactic when people in the north criticized his government)

    The best approach to the Alt-Right in Charlottesville would have been for Alt-left not to show up. Alt-Right would have had their rally , gave speeches , had a march and left. They might have received a few seconds on that nights news cycle and nothing more. Alt-Left showing up escalated everything and provided Alt-Right with exactly what they wanted, publicity and recruiting opportunities.

  • alrui

    This is great, we now live in a world where leftist CEO’s can shun customers because they have a difference of opinion!

    • EllaFino

      So now it is leftist to oppose Nazis and White Supremacists. I think you have drunk too much of the Trump koolaid.

      • alrui

        And you sir are a brain damaged libtard:-)

  • BSAllergic

    No. There is no moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who oppose them, which really is everyone else with a spine (there is no “alt-left”). In the same vein, this was not an overreach by Prince. In a tolerant society, the only intolerable thing is intolerance itself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

 
 
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