Cloudflare to stop protecting 8chan from DDoS attacks after massacre

Termination of service follows El Paso attack

Credit: 117647196 © Sharaf Maksumov

Cloudflare says it will ban imageboard 8chan from using its DDoS mitigation services following the El Paso, Texas, shooting that killed 20 people.

The alleged El Paso gunman is believed to have posted a racist manifesto on 8chan, citing as an inspiration for his massacre the March 2019 attacks on two Christchurch mosques.

The man arrested in the wake the Christchurch attacks is also believed to have posted a manifesto outlining his racist views on 8chan, in addition to using the site to share a link to a Facebook livestream of the shootings.

Similarly, the suspect in the April 2019 attack on a synagogue in Poway, California, used 8chan to post a racist ‘open letter’.

“We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a blog entry.

“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”

Prince wrote that the company did not take the decision to terminate 8chan’s use of its services “lightly”.

“In pursuit of our goal of helping build a better internet, we’ve considered it important to provide our security services broadly to make sure as many users as possible are secure, and thereby making cyberattacks less attractive — regardless of the content of those websites,” the CEO wrote.

In August 2017, Cloudflare similarly terminated the account of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site. That decision came in the wake of the murder of an anti-racist protester during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally that the site helped organise.

When he announced that decision, Prince noted that Cloudflare’s terms of service give the company the discretion to cancel the accounts of organisations and individuals that use its product. In the case of the Daily Stormer, the “tipping point” was a claim by the site that Cloudflare supported its ideology, Prince said.

The end of Cloudflare’s DDoS protection for the site “caused a brief interruption in the site's operations but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor,” Prince wrote in his announcement today.

“That competitor at the time promoted as a feature the fact that they didn't respond to legal process. Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting. They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare's problem, but they remain the Internet's problem.”

“Cloudflare is not a government,” the CEO wrote. “While we've been successful as a company, that does not give us the political legitimacy to make determinations on what content is good and bad. Nor should it. Questions around content are real societal issues that need politically legitimate solutions.”

Both the Daily Stormer and 8chan are “lawless” platforms: “In cases like these, where platforms have been designed to be lawless and unmoderated, and where the platforms have demonstrated their ability to cause real harm, the law may need additional remedies,” Prince wrote.

Following the Christchurch attacks, 8chan was among the sites blocked by major Australian telcos, including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, following a plea from New Zealand’s government. Other sites, which are believed to remain blocked, included 4chan, Kiwi Farms, and Voat. All three of those sites are believed to employ Cloudflare's services.

Earlier this year the Australian government passed legislation in response to the live-streaming of the Christchurch shootings.

The government legislated two new offences: One requires ISPs and providers of hosting and content services to report “abhorrent violent material” to the Australian Federal Police. The second offence applied to content and hosting service providers and requires them to remove access to abhorrent violent material in an “expeditious” manner.

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