Updated Cloudflare has yanked its services from 8chan, the "lawless" 4chan spinoff forum favoured by far-right nuts and paedophiles, after two mass shootings in the US over the weekend left nearly 30 people dead.
The site was working as normal early this morning UK time, but is now unavailable.
Cloudflare said in a statement that the suspected gunman in the El Paso shootings "appears to have been inspired by the forum website known as 8chan". The 21-year-old posted a white nationalist note to the site just before the killing began, and there were various supportive threads about the events in El Paso and in Ohio.
The web infrastructure firm said:
We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time. The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.
Meanwhile, the forum, which allows users to create their own image boards, has said it is working on returning to the web.
Some of you might’ve read the @Cloudflare news already. They're dropping 8chan. https://t.co/FQJrv9wzvn— 8chan (8ch.net) (@infinitechan) August 5, 2019
There might be some downtime in the next 24-48 hours while we find a solution (that includes our email so timely compliance with law enforcement requests may be affected).
Cloudflare said it did not take the decision lightly. CEO Matthew Prince told The Guardian on Saturday it would not be taking action.
It did, however, nuke neo-Nazi hangout the Daily Stormer in August 2017 after the fatal far-right rally in Charlottesville months earlier. The site has since flopped on and off the dark web and switched top-level domains and URLs like it's going out of fashion.
The company, which provides domain name services and protection from DDoS attacks to large parts on the internet, made clear that it understands that kicking 8chan off its network is unlikely to make the site disappear for very long. It also said that it does not wish to embrace a role as a content arbiter and perform a political role.
Cloudflare said it already works with law enforcement when it finds content indicating potential incitement of violence. It said European governments are taking the lead in recognising the difference between companies like Facebook and YouTube, which organise and promote content, and "conduit companies" like Cloudflare.
The statement noted:
While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does nothing to address why mass shootings occur. It does nothing to address why portions of the population feel so disenchanted they turn to hate. In taking this action we've solved our own problem, but we haven't solved the Internet's.
Cloudflare's full statement is worth a read. It ends: "Our whole Cloudflare team's thoughts are with the families grieving in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio this evening."
The Reg checked DNS records at the time of publication and the site was still offline. ®
Updated to add
8chan attempted to move its cyber-cesspool to web servers managed by BitMitigate, an outfit owned by an organization called Epik. However, the underlying server provider, Voxility, noticed, and pulled the plug on BitMitigate, Epik, and therefore 8chan. LinkedIn-for-paedophiles forum 8chan thus remains offline for now.
Full disclosure: The Register is a Cloudflare customer.