Under pressure, the security company Cloudflare takes down the website for Kiwi Farms.
The CEO of the company says that the company had found threats that were about to happen and that law enforcement could not keep up with them.
Cloudflare, a big tech security company, announced on Saturday that it will stop protecting the Kiwi Farms website, which is best known as a place for stalkers to plan hacks, online campaigns, and real-world harassment. This is because the public is putting more and more pressure on Cloudflare to change its mind.
The CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, wrote a long blog post last week defending the company's services that protect websites like Kiwi Farms. He told The Washington Post that he changed his mind not because of pressure, but because of a rise in real threats of violence coming from the site.
Prince said, "As Kiwi Farms has felt more threatened, they have become more dangerous." "We think there is an immediate threat, and we don't think law enforcement can keep up with it at the rate they can respond."
Prince said that people on the forum were putting up the addresses of people they thought were their enemies and calling for them to be shot.
After Cloudflare moved, people who went to Kiwi Farms saw this message: "Due to an immediate and emergency threat to human life, the content of this site is blocked from being accessed through Cloudflare's infrastructure."
Josh Moon, the founder of Kiwi Farm, said in a post on Telegram that Cloudflare made its decision "without any discussion" and that law enforcement had not talked to him about threats on the site. The post said, "It's early morning here." "I'll be able to say what I mean better in the morning."
Kiwi Farms came out in 2013, and it quickly became a popular place on the internet for campaigns to harass people. At least three suicides have been linked to bullying from the Kiwi Farms community, and many people on the forum say that their goal is to make their targets kill themselves. People in the LGBTQ community and women are often the ones who are picked on.
In the past week, Cloudflare has gotten a lot of negative feedback as a campaign to get it to stop providing the service grew and paid customers threatened to leave if Cloudflare didn't back down. The company says that it protects almost 20% of all internet traffic with services that are mostly free.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga) asked on August 24 that Kiwi Farms be taken down after she was swatted by someone who said they worked for the site. "Isn't it strange that a website like that exists?" Greene told Newsmax in an interview. "That website should be shut down. There shouldn't be any kind of business or service that lets you target your enemy."
Around that time, the company stopped charging Kiwi Farms $20 a month for a service that let them change the error messages that web users saw when their pages wouldn't load. It took away the last free services on Saturday. These services protect against denial-of-service attacks and speed up the delivery of content by making copies of the site in many places.
Clara Sorrenti, who goes by the online name Keffals and is a trans Canadian Twitch streamer, started the #DropKiwiFarms campaign after being targeted by Kiwi Farms posters for over six months.
Forum users had repeatedly "doxed" Sorrenti and her family by posting their addresses and other information, and last month they filed false crime reports to get police to her home in "swatting" attacks. Sorrenti ran away to Northern Ireland at the end of last month. Within 48 hours, forum users had figured out where she was and started making threats against her.
Saturday, she talked to The Post just minutes after police showed up at her house after another attempt to hit her.
"This website is causing a lot of trouble for a lot of people," Sorrenti said. "Kiwi Farms is not about free speech; it's about hate speech. Most of the content on the site is made up of threads that are used to harass specific politicians.
In the past few days, Sorrenti's campaign against Cloudflare has gone viral, with organizations and influential people joining the call for Kiwi Farms to be kicked off of Cloudflare's service. The Anti-Defamation League called Kiwi Farms "an extremist-friendly forum where many harassment campaigns have started."
Prince said in the interview that he didn't feel good about dropping Kiwi Farms because of what it was about, and he would have preferred to drop it only because a court told him to.
But he said it was an easier choice than dropping the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer and the website 8chan, which were not places where specific violent plans were being made.
In a post on Wednesday, Prince and another executive wrote that they thought basic security and caching services were infrastructure, like being connected to the internet, and that they shouldn't be held responsible for content without a court case. They said that was different from website hosting, which should have more responsibility and freedom.
Prince said Saturday that he still believes that, and in a new post he said that dropping Kiwi Farms was a "dangerous" choice. In the interview, he said that it could make forum users get even more angry, and that the forum would probably come back online with the help of Cloudflare's competitors.
"This could make the problem worse by making the posters at Kiwi Farms feel like they are being attacked," Prince told The Post.
Some experts in technology agreed with Cloudflare's decision not to act. Director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center Daphne Keller said that the current government of India recently put pressure on Facebook to remove content from political opponents.
"The question is, which parts of the technical "stack" of the internet are supposed to be neutral and which ones are supposed to moderate content? Is there a middle set of rules that should apply to the middle layers?" Keller said so to The Post.
But many technologists didn't agree with the previous point of view. Alex Stamos of Stanford University wrote on Twitter on Friday that continuing to serve Kiwi Farms was "not tenable."
"Soon, a doctor, an activist, or a trans person will be doxxed and killed, or a mass shooter will get ideas from that site. The investigation will show how the killer was connected to the site, and Cloudflare's enterprise base will disappear," Stamos wrote.
Prince said in the interview that he couldn't say how many new threats he had seen on Kiwi Farms, but he did say that they were getting worse quickly along with the forum's criticism. He said that the company had shared details with the FBI and law enforcement in the UK and Australia, but none of those agencies had asked him, even informally, to drop Kiwi Farms. Concerns about violent organizing online have been growing for years, and they have gotten worse since the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have also warned of possible violence around the November elections, or even earlier, because former president Donald Trump has compared the FBI and other institutions to organized crime.
Threats have been made against children's hospitals because of what others have said online about gender issues.
Moon, who started Kiwi Farm, used to be the administrator of 8chan, a forum that supporters of the extremist QAnon group used a lot. After Kiwi Farms posted a video of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 51 people, New Zealand ISPs blocked the site after Moon refused to give police information about posts about the shootings.
Kiwi Farms was kicked off of its domain registrar, DreamHost, last July after a software developer named Near killed himself. Near had been a longtime target of the site's users.
Erin Reed, a trans activist and content creator, tweeted on Saturday, "Like many trans people who have come out about being targeted by this site, I was also targeted by Kiwifarms." "They showed up at the courthouse in my town to take my divorce papers. They put up pictures from Google Maps of my house. They try to frighten trans people into keeping quiet.
But trans activist Chelsea Manning gave a more nuanced view. "I don't think that asking hosting providers to take these things down is a long-term solution to this kind of dangerous speech," she told The Post. "We need a longer-term plan that is more balanced and measured."