In the wake of Charlottesville, Silicon Valley continues to crack down on white nationalist websites and social media accounts, but one CEO acknowledges that his decision to axe The Daily Stormer was a complicated mix of anger and emotion that could spell trouble if applied to other sites and services.
Internet security firm Cloudflare on Wednesday terminated its account with The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that has been relegated to the dark web in recent days after GoDaddy and Google both refused to host the site. In an email to staff obtained by Gizmodo, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said he "woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick [Daily Stormer] off the Internet."
"I called our legal team and told them what we were going to do," Prince continued. "I called our Trust & Safety team and had them stop the service. It was a decision I could make because I'm the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company."
Still, the decision was "dangerous," he said. "Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn't be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power."
In a Thursday blog post, Prince argued that Cloudflare's terms of service give it the right to terminate users. "The 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," he wrote.
According to Prince, Cloudflare has had discussions about supporting "vile" content like The Daily Stormer "for years," but the initial takedown requests came from hackers.
"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,'" he wrote. "But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice."
Prince argued that the discussion should be around due process rather than freedom of speech.
"I, personally, believe in strong Freedom of Speech protections, but I also acknowledge that it is a very American idea that is not shared globally," he wrote. "On the other hand, the concept of Due Process is close to universal. At its most basic, Due Process means that you should be able to know the rules a system will follow if you participate in that system. Due Process requires that decisions be public and not arbitrary."
Ultimately, Prince said he doesn't have the answers. "What I do hope is [this incident] will allow us all to discuss what the framework for all [internet] organizations…should be when it comes to content restrictions."
Regardless, The Daily Stormer and other white nationalist websites are having a hard time staying online. After being called out on Twitter, DailyOcean, which hosted The Daily Stormer's donation site, said it was terminating the account.
Twitter has also suspended several Daily Stormer accounts, USA Today reports, though the Southern Poverty Law Center took the micro-blogging service to task for not doing enough. Twitter aggressively goes after Isis and other terrorist accounts, SLPC told USA Today, but has not done the same for neo-Nazi accounts. "Charlottesville has definitely lit a fire under some people," the organization said.
Meanwhile, Spotify has removed music from white supremacist bands after Digital Music News called them out; Deezer has reportedly done the same. But as Digital Music News reports, the SLPC first noted the existence of such music in 2014.
Website builder SquareSpace, meanwhile, told The Verge that it will "remove a group of sites from our platform" within 48 hours. It did not elaborate, but Spencer's "think tank" is apparently among the sites being removed. On Twitter, Spencer re-tweeted someone calling for "alt-right" versions of Cloudflare, Squarespace, DNS hosts, and PayPal, which has also cracked down on white nationalist accounts.