September 13, 2017

KATE KLONICK: The Terrifying Power of Internet Censors.

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.

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?

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.

None of this is news to Instapundit readers, but it’s refreshing to see the case for internet First Amendment protection being made on the OpEd page of the New York Times.