Cloudflare is a CDN that speeds up websites and shields them from sudden increases in traffic, including both organic surges in popularity and deliberate DDoS attacks. The websites that use Cloudflare are able to anonymize their webservers, so that DDoS attackers cannot identify the website’s true backends and attack them directly, as this would bypass Cloudflare’s protection.
There are many legitimate businesses and other websites that use Cloudflare, and they aren’t necessarily bad people. However, Cloudflare defines very few activities that they are unwilling to protect, and this has resulted in some dangerous customers who threaten peoples’ lives.
Kiwi Farms is a web forum dedicated to stalking and harassing people they don’t like. According to the site’s official Twitter account (now banned), the purpose of the site is “Gossip and exploitation of the mentally handicapped for amusement purposes”.
Not surprisingly, it sprang up from the fetid ground beneath 4chan, although 4chan members reportedly consider it an embarrassment because Kiwi Farms makes it too obvious that they crave attention and validation — caring about things is among the most serious crimes possible in chan culture.
Kiwi Farms owner Joshua Moon lives in the United States, so the site is theoretically subject to US laws against such targeted harassment, but Kiwi Farms targets people who law enforcement agencies do not particularly care about. In particular, Kiwi Farms is known for harassing people who fall into the following categories:
- Trans women.
- Autistic folks.
- Folks with mental disabilities other than autism.
- Jews, Muslims, and refugees. The site’s founder has stated that such people should be killed.
- LGBTQ+ folks other than trans women.
- Folks into various non-mainstream kinks and fetishes that the Kiwi Farms members find “funny”.
The name was originally called “CWCki Forums”, as the entire site was founded for the specific purpose of harassing Christine Weston Chandler (an autistic trans woman) for making a fan-comic of something she liked. The current name is a corruption of the original name, coined to make fun of another person’s speech impediment. Their harassment has extended to following her around her neighborhood and taking pictures, and to pretending to date her in order to extract personal information for more stalking. (This might sound like paranoia, but the Kiwi Farms members themselves will proudly admit to doing it.)
Many, many other people have been subject to similar harassment, and this has resulted in at least one death by suicide that we know about. Kiwi Farms is relentless and they are unable to understand that killing people is not funny.
8chan is a message board known for its toxic community. As with Kiwi Farms, 8chan originated in the miasma that surrounds 4chan, and it mostly exists to provide a home for discussions that were so extreme that even 4chan thought they were a bad idea.
8chan was originally founded when 4chan began to crack down on underage erotic content that was, while strictly legal in 4chan’s legal jurisdiction, far too close to kiddie porn for the comfort of the 4chan moderators. As such, while 8chan does make at least some effort to purge content which is truly illegal, it is very adamant about allowing, for example, nude drawings of fictional underage characters.
However, 8chan was originally a fairly minor site; most people outside of 4chan’s direct sphere of influence had heard of it. But then, in 2014, Gamergate blew up when Zoë Quinn, developer of an indie game called Depression Quest, was smeared by a spiteful ex who claimed in a blog post that she’d slept with a game journalist to get a good review.
(Not only is there no evidence that Ms. Quinn ever slept with the journalist in question, but the journalist in question has never to this date reviewed her game.)
Members of 4chan’s
/v/ board worked themselves up into
a tizzy of misogyny and MRA talking points; this directly lead to
the moderators banning Gamergate from 4chan entirely, a rare step
indeed, because they felt that having an illegal harassment and
doxxing campaign be coordinated via the 4chan webserver was exposing
them to too much legal risk. The exiles fled to 8chan, and 8chan
became the central hub of Gamergate as it destroyed multiple
peoples’ lives over the next two-plus years by stalking family
members, phoning in anonymous “tips” to employers about the supposed
unsavory activities of their employees, SWATting people, and so on.
Since then, 8chan has continued to fester. While the last vestiges of Gamergate itself mostly died down in Donald Trump’s jockeying for Republican US presidential nominee in 2016, that was less because Gamergate was losing steam and more because the Gamergate fanatics were focusing their attention on Trump. By this point 8chan, 4chan, and socially adjacent areas of Reddit were thoroughly invested in what is now called alt-right politics, unironically calling Trump their “God-Emperor” in reference to Emperor Leto II of Frank Herbert’s Dune books.
8chan is now a major source of white supremacy on the Internet, far surpassing old has-beens like Stormfront. Anyone who was paying attention during Gamergate, or even earlier when the channers began attacking Anita Sarkeesian with anti-semitic caricatures, or even back to the early 2000’s with the virulently racist imagery that was common in “ironic” 4chan memes, should not be even slightly surprised at that. However, what was previously confined to the Internet is now spilling over openly into “real life”: the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March 2019, and now the synagogue attack in Poway, California on 27 April 2019 .
The obvious thing to do is to report the abuse to Cloudflare and demand that they forward the report to the hosting provider which serves these websites. Unfortunately, Cloudflare has proven unwilling to do this: they have instead forwarded such reports to the websites themselves, causing those who report abuse to themselves be abused.
For a smaller service, we might consider the Internet Death Penalty. This is an informal process where every network provider and ISP agrees to shun anyone who provides hosting to the bad behavior. There was a brief period where the threat of the Internet Death Penalty was the most powerful weapon against spam e-mail, although that era has long since passed. However, the Internet Death Penalty has always been an empty threat against larger services, for the exact reason that they are large: too many innocent people would be affected, so the chances are small that the penalty could even be enforced. Cloudflare is definitely large enough that the collateral damage of enforcing the Internet Death Penalty against them is unthinkable.
That leaves one recourse that we can see: a customer boycott . Some of the Internet’s largest and most-loved companies use Cloudflare, and we believe it is a moral imperative that those companies must refuse to do business with Cloudflare, in favor of competitors such as Fastly or Akamai. The goal is not to put Cloudflare out of business; the goal is for Cloudflare to feel a material impact on its business that forces it to change course. Sites like 8chan and Kiwi Farms cannot survive without the assistance of CDNs like Cloudflare, and Cloudflare is the only CDN with a reputation for hosting such toxic and lethal content.