September 14, 2017
In a New York Times op-ed entitled “The Terrifying Power of Internet Censors,” a Yale Law School doctoral candidate, Kate Klonick, has defended the rights of the Daily Stormer.
She focuses on Cloudflare. I’m not sure if she does this to simplify the concept for the layman, or simply because she herself doesn’t understand.
After the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last month where a man drove a car into a crowd, killing a counter-demonstrator, the American neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer published a long, hate-riddled post mocking the victim.
Outcry over the article led its domain registrar, GoDaddy, to end The Daily Stormer’s service. The site then registered with Google, which also quickly canceled its hosting. But it wasn’t until Cloudflare, a website security and performance service, dropped the site as a client that The Daily Stormer truly lost its ability to stay online.
That’s not really exactly true.
Thus far there is no registrar willing to keep us online. Maybe Dreamhost would have not folded if we still had Cloudflare – I have no idea. They did cite the fact that they were getting DDoSed as the reason for dropping us, and if we still had had Cloudflare, we would have been using their DNS and so Dreamhost wouldn’t have gotten DDoSed. However, they then came out with a different reason for dropping us.
Also, we did create our own DNS, which made it so we could prevent DDoS attacks on the registrar itself when we were on both .al and .at – Albania and Austria, respectively.
Both of these registrars dropped us due to pressure from their respective governments.
But anyway, I also hate Cloudflare. And they should be attacked.
Because of the precise nature of Cloudflare’s business, and the scarcity of competitors, its role censoring internet speech is not just new, it’s terrifying.
What makes Cloudflare an essential part of the internet is its ability to block malicious traffic from barraging clients’ websites with requests that take them offline. Cloudflare is one of the few companies in the world that provide this kind of reliable protection. If you don’t want your website to get taken down by extortionists, jokers, political opposition or hackers, you have to hire Cloudflare or one of its very few competitors.
Just for the record here: all of their competitors are extraordinarily expensive, and we were going to use one anyway – because we don’t have any choice – but they all denied us service during the sign-up process.
For example, CloudDNS.
They did give me my money back. They didn’t offer it until I asked, however.
Dreamhost, Namecheap and others just kept my money even after I asked for it back.
Just for the record.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of corporate players on the internet: companies that build infrastructure through which content flows, and companies that seek to curate content and create a community.
Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast, domain name servers, web hosts and security services providers like Cloudflare are all the former — or the “pipe.” They typically don’t look at the content their clients and customers are putting up, they just give them the means to do it and let it flow.
While there have long been worries about internet service providers favoring access to some content over others, there has been less concern about companies further along the pipeline holding an internet on/off switch. In large part, this is because at other points in the pipeline, users have choice. Private companies can make their own rules, and consumers can choose among them. If GoDaddy won’t register your domain, you can go to Bluehost or thousands of other companies.
Unless you’re the Daily Stormer.
We are so far the only site that has been banned from the internet.
Of course, more are coming.
But the fewer choices you have for the infrastructure you need to stay online, the more serious the consequences when companies refuse service. This is why Cloudflare’s decision to drop The Daily Stormer is so significant. Denying security service to one Nazi website seems fine now, but what if Cloudflare started suspending service for a political candidate that its chief executive didn’t like?
The readership of the NYT does indeed need to have the core concept of why free speech exists explained to them like they are babies.
That is the timeline we are on, presently.
With this move, Cloudflare is wading into the business of evaluating the content of its clients — something sites like Facebook and Twitter have been wrestling with for years, leading them to develop complex rules and procedures that govern what users are and are not allowed to post. Most agree that it’s appropriate for social media companies to take down certain kinds of content — that’s how they ensure our newsfeeds aren’t full of pornography or violence. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want that type of content to be able to exist somewhere on the internet. Ensuring that sites like Cloudflare remain content-neutral might be necessary to guarantee that.
One of the additional difficulties with Cloudflare is that it is not so much a piece of pipe as it is a service. Specifically, it is a paid-for-protection service. Having to hire Cloudflare to protect your website is like having to hire security to protect you from attackers when you speak in the public square. If that security service is the only one in town, and you’ll be silenced if you try to speak without it, maybe that security service shouldn’t pick and choose whom it protects. While regulation should not be done lightly or broadly, there’s a case to be made that we should treat Cloudflare more like the police, who are supposed to equally protect all members of the public.
Last week, Matthew Prince, Cloudflare’s chief executive, acknowledged how much power his company has, and what’s at stake. “The internet is a really important resource for everyone,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch, “but there’s a very limited set of companies that control it and there’s such little accountability to us that it really is quite a dangerous thing.”
This is the most terrifying realization surrounding Cloudflare’s removal of a site from the internet: There’s a lack of accountability present at every part of the pipeline and on platforms. The people who run these companies are not elected officials, yet we still expect them to safeguard our basic liberties while also meeting our cultural expectations. For the most part they do: both because it’s good business to meet the expectations of their users, and because most have praiseworthy goals of corporate responsibility. Beyond these minor checks on these companies’ power, we as users have no way to ensure they meet our needs — and we have no idea what site they’ll take down next.
To be clear: Cloudflare is not the most important element. Along with registrars refusing my domain, Cisco/OpenDNS has been caught refusing to resolve our DNS, which, when we were on .al, meant that 2% of the world was unable to access our site.
I think it was fine for the NYT to reduce this to Cloudflare the way they did. It’s simpler that way. But it is the entire backbone infrastructure of the internet which has now been politicized, and it all needs regulated by the government.
It is great to see leftists realizing that this is their problem too.
Literally no one benefits from this, other than the Jews themselves who are in power, and have reason to believe they will remain in power indefinitely. But not all positions the Jews have are leftist positions. BDS and criticism of the banking system will get shut down with much less fanfare than the Daily Stormer was when the momentum of censorship builds and it becomes acceptable for backbone internet infrastructure companies to silence anyone that Jews don’t like.
Wednesday, the same day this NYT op-ed was posted, Glenn Beck defended the Stormer’s rights to speech (Soundcloud link, second hour). This is something that all things being equal, everyone in the country should easily be able to agree on: it is unjustifiable for private companies to decide what people are and are not allowed to say.
At this point, it is much, much too late for GoDaddy, Google, Cloudflare or any of these other companies to walk back what they have done to us. The only solution is for these companies to be regulated in the same way the banking industry, the oil industry and the various public utilities are regulated. That is to say, that is the only way short of outright nationalizing them as critical infrastructure too volatile to be left in the hands of private companies at all – though I don’t think that is necessary.
Right now, we have courts that are going to defend our First Amendment indefinitely. We have no reason to believe that SCOTUS is ever going to rule against free speech, and if they do, it won’t be for a generation. Putting these companies under the control of the government is the only solution.
All of this has backfired anyway. I haven’t been silenced. I am still here. I am still writing. I am still having an effect on mainstream politics. In fact, this has done nothing other than increase my longterm political relevance by orders of magnitude.
Silencing people is not a solution to political problems. If we have disagreements, we can talk them out. That is the American way.