Vincent Canfield's Blog

My Response to Cloudflare's Termination of The Daily Stormer


Category: Internets

UPDATE: Andrew Anglin, publisher of The Daily Stormer, is denying the central claim in Cloudflare's blog post and the foundation of this article. Take my post for what you will.

The website The Daily Stormer has come under fire from every provider it's touched recently. For those unfamiliar, The Daily Stormer is a white supremacist website popular for its anti-semetic, racist, and overall offensive content. Much of what The Daily Stormer does I can only come to describe as journalistic trolling. After a car drove through a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one, TDS published an article exclaiming that the 32-year-old-woman deserved to die. This set off a wave of actions by GoDaddy, Google Domains, and others, to suspend TDSs, hosting (afaik), and reduce internet presence wherever they can.

This is a dangerous situation. I am a free speech absolutist, and that philosophy is reflected in every service I provide online. I don't believe any laws were broken by TDS or any of the companies that suspended them, but I believe the best companies are those that don't meddle in the politics of their customers.

That being said, Cloudflare recently terminated their CDN service with TDS, and their CEO Matthew Prince posted a statement yesterday. about it. I am incredibly impressed by the caution, regret, and acknowledgement of hypocrisy expressed by Cloudflare in their response. If they were going for good publicity or optics they easily could have fell in line with all other providers and pleased 99% of people and been done with it. Instead Prince took the principled way, and explained everything that was wrong with the fact that he had the power to censor someone on this type of scale. The blog post is a scathing criticism of his own decision and the dangerous position Cloudflare is in by being the largest free CDN on the Internet.

Does that excuse the decision? It's hard to say. Prince's reason for terminating the service was that "the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology." I can see where Cloudflare is coming here. There is a far cry between hosting offensive content because you are strictly "content neutral" and the purveyors of said offensive content claiming you are doing so because you are among their supporters. I have made it very clear, I hope, that I do not care what anyone uses my services for (mostly VPS and E-mail). But if I was placed in the same position that my neutrality is analagous with support, I'm not sure what decision I would make.

Whether or not the decision was right, the way Cloudflare's CEO responded to the incident is deserving of praise. Their post mentions "hard cases make bad law", which is true. But cases like this also peel us back to our core principles and make us realize what is most important, and I have no doubt Cloudflare's core principles rest in a free and open Internet.

My personal beliefs aside, I hope The Daily Stormer can find a new CDN so they can stay online. I also hope they can avoid situations like this in the future by not biting the hand that hosts them. I don't think any of us are walking away from this situation happy, but hopefully this can serve as a learning experience for all of us.