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Cloudflare Urged to Cut Ties to Site That Promotes Harassment

·4 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Cloudflare Inc., an internet services company, is facing mounting protests online calling for it to cease support for Kiwi Farms, a discussion forum for harassment and hate campaigns that has forced a well-known transgender Twitch streamer into hiding.

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Clara Sorrenti, who live streams on Twitch under the name Keffals, has amassed a following on the platform for her political commentary, including discussions on LGBTQ rights. The 28-year-old Canadian said she recently became a target of unrelenting harassment from users on Kiwi Farms.

Sorrenti said police descended on her home in London, Ontario, on Aug. 5 and wrongfully arrested her after someone pretending to be her emailed fake threats of violence to city officials, an incident known as swatting. After she moved undercover, Sorrenti said Kiwi Farms users tracked her every move and publicized her location -- a tactic called doxxing.

“There are countless people actively, every day, being harassed by this site -- most neurodivergent or transgender,” Sorrenti said in an interview. “It would help a lot of people if Cloudflare no longer provided their services to Kiwi Farms.”

Founded in 2013, Kiwi Farms hosts content that would be unwelcome elsewhere online, including posts that contain slurs, personal information about others, and even videos and manifestos pertaining to mass shooters. At least two people who have died by suicide have been targets of Kiwi Farms users, according to victims themselves and friends of the people cited in news reports. As part of the campaign against Cloudflare, several Twitter users have publicly described the mental anguish they suffered as a result of threads about them on Kiwi Farms. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican lawmaker from Georgia who has sought to criminalize gender-affirming surgery, has also called for Kiwi Farms to be taken down. She was recently a victim herself of swatting after false reports of violence sent police to her home, she said, sharing surveillance footage that captured the incident.

In August, the #DropKiwiFarms campaign was mentioned 10,000 times on Twitter.

“It’s been very emotional,” Sorrenti said, describing the support she’s gotten from the Cloudflare protests. “The advice most people who get targeted by Kiwi Farms are given is that, if they talk about it, it will make the harassment worse. But with this campaign, they decided to talk about it publicly. It made me feel a lot less alone knowing there were so many people out there who’ve had to deal with the same nightmare I’ve had to deal with. And they probably felt less alone, too.”

Kiwi Farms owner and administrator Joshua Moon, who goes by Null, said “the forum does not condone behavior besides on-site discussion.” The site has gone offline several times since the campaign began, apparently as a result of DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks from internet users. Kiwi Farms receives 10 million views a month, according to data from SimilarWeb, which analyzes web traffic.

On Tuesday, the #DropKiwiFarms campaign escalated as Sorrenti launched a website called dropkiwifarms.net and called for a protest outside the Cloudflare Connect conference in San Francisco on Oct. 18 if the company doesn’t drop support for the site.

Social media companies have for years struggled over whether to deplatform accounts that break their terms of service or cause public harm. Sorrenti’s campaign seeks to highlight Cloudflare’s role -- and the role of similar companies -- in empowering alleged harm online.

Cloudflare has made a point of not getting involved in moderation and has refused to deny services to companies or sites that are considered controversial. The San Francisco-based company has, however, ceased support for some sites in the past, including the White supremacist blog Daily Stormer in 2017 after the death of protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the time, Chief Executive Officer Matthew Prince said the “tipping point” was Daily Stormer affiliates claiming that Cloudflare secretly supported their ideology.

In 2019, Cloudflare terminated service for controversial forum 8chan. Prince attributed the decision to 8chan’s ties to mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Christchurch, New Zealand. “We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design,” Prince wrote at the time in a blog.

Cloudflare hasn’t responded to the #DropKiwiFarms campaign. Prince wrote in 2017 that the company doesn’t terminate customers due to political pressure. The company didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

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