The internet infrastructure firm Cloudflare said it would cut service on Sunday evening to 8chan, the infamous online forum that has housed numerous posts and manifestos linked to horrific mass shootings in the United States and around the world. The move comes nearly two days after a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart left 20 dead and dozens wounded. The alleged gunman appears to have posted his manifesto on 8chan 20 minutes before the shooting. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince spoke with WIRED Sunday night about his decision.
“8chan has been on our radar for a long time as a problematic user,” says Prince. “But we have a responsibility, which is much beyond ‘we terminate sites we don’t like.’ I’m nervous about whether we’ve made the right decision, and I’m nervous about how this will set precedent in the future.”
Prince argues that rather than Cloudflare, platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter should decide what belongs on their own sites. Cloudflare shouldn’t make those calls any more than asphalt should set speed limits. The major platforms can, and do, moderate their own content and manage violent, destructive trends themselves—even if it’s been an imperfect system in practice. But Prince says that he didn’t account for platforms like 8chan that are intentionally created as a forum for unregulated expression.
“When you have platforms that are effectively lawless like this, then maybe that shifts the responsibility further down the stack,” Prince says.
MacDailyNews Take: This simply moves the problem to another place. It’s good problem mitigation for Cloudflare, meaningless for everyone else as 8chan or similar will continue to exist elsewhere.
The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. — John Gilmore, December 6, 1993