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Cloudflare And Squarespace Terminate Hate Sites In Another Tech About-Face

For Cloudflare, long steadfast in its neutrality, the decision about one site was simple, said the CEO: “The people behind The Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.”

Cloudflare And Squarespace Terminate Hate Sites In Another Tech About-Face
Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince. [Photo: Max Whittaker/Techcrunch]

Squarespace and Cloudflare are the latest digital platforms to shift their approach to right-wing websites in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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“In light of recent events, we have made the decision to remove a group of sites from our platform,” a representative from Squarespace wrote in an email. “We have given the site owners 48 hours’ notice.” The company hasn’t said which websites would be evicted.

Cloudflare, the content distribution network that has long stood by sites’ free speech rights, announced this afternoon that it would no longer support The Daily Stormer, ending a set of digital protections for a neo-Nazi website that was earlier dropped by GoDaddy and Google this week.

The shift at platforms that have long espoused a “neutral” approach follows voluble calls on Twitter and elsewhere for these services to stop serving people like Richard Spencer and groups like his National Policy Institute. One petition calling on Squarespace to act has more than 36,000 signatures. (See how other platforms have responded to Charlottesville here.)

Squarespace’s homepage

Though Squarespace’s Acceptable Use Policy forbids advocating “bigotry or hatred against any person or group based on their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, age, or disability,” it, like other platforms, has resisted calls for banning these sites.

Earlier this year, Fast Company’s Sean Captain asked Squarespace about its hosting and provision of e-commerce and fundraising support for hate sites, but the company did not respond. As he wrote,

Radix Journal is run by the white supremacist National Policy Institute, whose website is also hosted on Squarespace. Another essay on the site, by neatly dressed, Nazi-quoting NPI chairman Richard Spencer, argues for the intellectual inferiority of black people. Squarespace even powers the online store for Radix Journal, where Aryans can pick up an alt-right-themed T-shirt or a “Trump Deportation Force” poster for under $30.

These groups may not be welcome at a growing number of platforms, but their sites could still find harbor elsewhere: After GoDaddy and Google stopped providing domain registration for white supremacist site The Daily Stormer, it re-emerged today on a Russian domain.

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And then, by the afternoon, it was offline again, as Cloudflare announced its own small, but still significant, about-face.

“No One Should Have That Power”

It was, however, “an arbitrary decision,” wrote CEO Matthew Prince, who said in a letter to employees that his rationale “was simple: The people behind The Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.”

“Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,” he wrote in his letter. “No one should have that power.”

Given the “risks of a company like Cloudflare getting into content policing,” he wrote in a blog post later, the decision led one employee to ask Prince, “Is this the day the internet dies?”

“There’s a saying in legal circles that hard cases make bad law,” Prince added. “We need to be careful of that here. What I do hope is it will allow us all to discuss what the framework for all of the organizations listed above should be when it comes to content restrictions. I don’t know the right answer, but I do know that as we work it out it’s critical we be clear, transparent, consistent, and respectful of Due Process.”

RelatedThe Myth Of The Neutral Silicon Valley Platform Is Crumbling

About the author

Alex is a contributing editor at Fast Company, the founding editor and editor at large of Motherboard at Vice, and a freelance writer and producer with a focus on the intersections of science, technology, media, politics, and culture.

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