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Tech Companies Begin Blacklisting Alt-Right Sites, Purging Them from the Internet

Security officer guarding virtual server room

The blacklisting of alt-right sites on the Internet has begun in earnest.

Add CloudFlare to the growing list of companies refusing to do business with the loathsome, hate-spewing Daily Stormer. Reversing the company's previous stance on not censoring content, founder and CEO Matthew Prince wrote in an internal email that he "woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet. It was a decision I could make because I'm the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company."

"My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are a**holes and I'd had enough," Prince wrote. "Let me be clear: this was an arbitrary decision." [Emphasis added]

At the company's blog, he further explained that "we're going to have a long debate internally about whether we need to remove the [bullet point in our transparency policy] about not terminating a customer due to political pressure. It's powerful to be able to say you've never done something. And, after today, make no mistake, it will be a little bit harder for us to argue against a government somewhere pressuring us into taking down a site they don't like."

Squarespace is also jumping on the censorship bandwagon:

Squarespace, a hosting company, told Ars on Wednesday that it would soon be booting some of its current customers. The company currently hosts numerous extremist sites, including freedomfront.org, identityevropa.com, and npiamerica.org, among others.

"In light of recent events, we have made the decision to remove a group of sites from our platform," Terry Wei, a Squarespace spokesman, e-mailed Ars. "We have given the site owners 48 hours' notice. We cannot provide further information at this time, but we’ll be in touch as soon as we have an update."

Apple and PayPal are also joining in:

In addition, on Wednesday,  Apple said it would pull support for Apple Pay to a number of websites that sell "White Pride" apparel, and PayPal ceased its services to  VDARE, a white nationalist group.

Cloud hosting company Digital Ocean, not wanting to be left out, took down Hatreon (a crowdfunding platform that doesn't have "hate" restrictions) today:

The company has also stopped providing services to Daily Stormer as well. Tech Crunch:

Earlier today cloud hosting platform DigitalOcean was  publicly called out on Twitter for providing services to both The Daily Stormer and pro-hate speech crowdfunding platform Hatreon.

A few hours after a tweet by Ryan Block calling out Digital Ocean for providing services to Daily Stormer, the company responded on Twitter saying they “investigated and determined this site violates our TOS by inciting violence or hate crimes," adding, "We’ve terminated their account."

The Southern Poverty Law Center took a break from trying to get Confederate war memorials torn down this week to work on getting CloudFlare to ban 48 "hate sites."

Breitbart also found itself in the crosshairs of the newly emboldened Internet blacklisting activist with calls for CloudFlare to drop the site from its client list. A software engineer from Digital Ocean tweeted this:

He's not alone:

Where is this all leading? Will mainstream conservative sites like PJ Media be next on their hit lists after they've run all the alt-right sites off the Internet? Conventional wisdom would say that there's no way these companies would be willing to alienate a large percentage of their customer bases, but as we've seen over and over again in the last few years, it now seems that corporations are willing to sacrifice profit in order to satiate the screeching social justice warriors. Just this week Apple took sides, announcing a donation of $1 million to the extremist Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League in the wake of the Charlottesville riots. Now that these groups have been emboldened, they won't stop with Nazi and white nationalist sites.

Cloudflare's Prince wrote in a blog post Thursday that someone is going to have to police content on the Internet:

You, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormer's site is vile. You may believe it should be restricted. You may think the authors of the site should be prosecuted. Reasonable people can and do believe all those things. But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice.

In other words, if companies like CloudFlare refuse to protect sites from DDoS attacks, then it will be left up to hackers to decide whose content gets to stay on the Internet. If that happens, the Internet could devolve into endless street fighting with hackers roaming the information superhighway looking for bad guys to take out while rival hacker groups fight them for turf. Prince added:

The size and scale of the attacks that can now easily be launched online make it such that if you don't have a network like Cloudflare in front of your content, and you upset anyone, you will be knocked offline. In fact, in the case of the Daily Stormer, the initial requests we received to terminate their service came from hackers who literally said: "Get out of the way so we can DDoS this site off the Internet."

That's what websites are up against in 2017, and make no mistake, all sites are vulnerable.

Prince told Gizmodo:

We need to have a discussion around this, with clear rules and clear frameworks. My whims and those of Jeff [Bezos] and Larry [Page] and Satya [Nadella] and Mark [Zuckerberg], that shouldn’t be what determines what should be online. I think the people who run The Daily Stormer are abhorrent. But again I don’t think my political decisions should determine who should and shouldn’t be on the internet.

Only it was his political decision that threw Daily Stormer (and who knows what other sites) to the hacktivist wolves today. He said in an internal memo to employees that the decision to ditch the site was "dangerous" and he admitted that "no one should have that power."

Only he does have that power and he erred on the side of blacklisting a site. He bowed to the pressure of the mob. While it's admirable that Prince recognizes the danger, he — along with Google, GoDaddy, and other companies — has set a dangerous precedent. And that means nearly any site could be vulnerable to the "arbitrary decisions" of Prince and others like him in the future. Who will be blacklisted next?

Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard