Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince: Tech ‘Gatekeepers’ Shouldn’t Ban Content; I Made an ‘Exception’ for Daily Stormer

cloudflare-Prince Reuters

Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Prince expressed remorse on Tuesday in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that his arbitrary decision to remove the Daily Stormer from his company’s services might endanger free speech on the internet.

Last week, GoDaddy decided to remove the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer from their web hosting, and Google decided to remove the white supremacist site from servers as well. Cloudflare also discontinued its service, even though they previously stated that they would defend their right to provide their services to ISIS-related websites.

Breitbart News reported that Prince decided to suspend web hosting for the Daily Stormer because “I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.”

Prince added, “My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.”

Breitbart News previously reported about the irony of GoDaddy, Google, and other content providers arguing that removing the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality regulations would allow internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast or Verizon to block or discriminate against websites and services, when these companies have blocked these websites, and essentially violated the neutrality of the Internet.

Shortly after Prince banned the Daily Stormer, he emailed his employees, reassuring them that he did not set a “precedent.” He even admitted, “The right answer is for us to be consistently content neutral.”

The Cloudflare CEO suggested that banning the Daily Stormer garnered positive media attention and that their vague terms of service gave Cloudflare enough discretion to terminate anyone’s service. Prince wrote:

At some level, it’s easy to fire Nazis as customers. They don’t pay you much, if anything, since Cloudflare offers a free version of its service. Our terms of use give us broad discretion to choose whom we allow to use our network. Beyond the horrible content, the Daily Stormer began claiming that we secretly supported their ideology, causing a major distraction to our team. Firing a Nazi customer gets you glowing notes from around the world thanking you for standing up to hate.

Now, a week later, Prince continues to worry about the implications of his actions. Prince explained, “The upshot is that a few private companies have effectively become the gatekeepers to the public square—the blogs and social media that serve as today’s soapboxes and pamphlets. If a handful of tech executives decide to block you from their services, your content effectively can’t be on the internet.”

Prince added that “It doesn’t sit right to have a private company, invisible but ubiquitous, making editorial decisions about what can and cannot be online. The pre-internet analogy would be if Ma Bell listened in on phone calls and could terminate your line if it didn’t like what you were talking about.”

The Cloudflare CEO wanted to reassure Wall Street Journal readers that his company will continue to assess the danger of their leader’s actions, and promised that the he did not create a slippery slope that would lead to more censorship.

“Terminating the Daily Stormer is likely to be the exception that proves the importance of content neutrality,” Prince wrote.

Prince concluded, “My moral compass alone should not determine who gets to stay online,” even though his moral compass determined who receives access to the internet.


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