In a financial form released Thursday, Internet infrastructure giant Cloudflare admitted that it had faced “significant adverse feedback” from users and potential customers over its blacklisting of anonymous online forum 8chan.
Cloudflare released a form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which serves as an initial registration form for new securities and details current business models and competition. The filing revealed that Cloudflare faced significant criticism over its banning of its most controversial customers, including 8chan.
Although Cloudflare said that it faced negative publicity over the website’s hosting of content from white supremacist site the Daily Stormer as well as 8chan, it also admitted that many current users and potential customers remain concerned over the company’s ability to censor any users’ content on its platform.
Cloudflare admitted in the financial document that it faced significant backlash from current and prospective users who remain concerned over its ability to censor its customers, including the Daily Stormer and 8chan. The documents revealed:
Conversely, actions we take in response to the activities of our paying and free customers, up to and including banning them from using our products, may harm our brand and reputation. Following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, we terminated the account of The Daily Stormer. Similarly, following the events in El Paso, Texas, we terminated the account of 8chan. We received significant adverse feedback for these decisions from those concerned about our ability to pass judgment on our customers and the users of our platform, or to censor them by limiting their access to our products, and we are aware of potential customers who decided not to subscribe to our products because of this. [Emphasis added.]
When Cloudflare decided to ban the Daily Stormer in the wake of the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, CEO Matthew Prince branded Daily Stormer owner Andrew Anglin and others “assholes” and said that he “woke up in a bad mood and decided that someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet.”
Later in August 2017, Prince expressed remorse in an op-ed in 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.
In an email to his employees, Prince claimed that he did not want to set a “precedent” by banning the Daily Stormer and admitted that the “right answer is for us to be consistently content neutral.”
The Cloudflare CEO said that a few private tech companies, including Cloudflare, have essentially become the “gatekeepers” to the Internet and that if these tech companies decide to ban you, then one cannot essentially be on the Internet.
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.”
Now, in the wake of the El Paso, Texas, shooting, Cloudflare blacklisted 8chan after previously claiming that it had not created a “precedent” after its previous banning of the Daily Stormer.
Cloudflare claimed that 8chan was “directly” inspiring the tragic shootings at El Paso as well as in New Zealand.
However, Prince admitted that despite his company’s increasing censorship on the Internet, this censorship would not stop online radicalization.
“Almost exactly two years ago we made the determination to kick another disgusting site off Cloudflare’s network: the Daily Stormer,” Prince wrote in August. “That caused a brief interruption in the site’s operations, but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor.”