Website security firm CEO wakes up mad, sends neo-Nazi website to its doom
SAN FRANCISCO — A tech executive's anger led him to lash out against the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website hounded from the internet domain registries of GoDaddy and Google after it rhetorically attacked the woman killed during the recent alt-right violence in Charlottesville, Va.
On Wednesday, Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, a San Francisco firm that provides protective services to websites, decided to withdraw online protection from company client the Daily Stormer. Stripping that protection in effect made it impossible for the site, the target of numerous groups wanting to knock it offline, to operate.
“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet,” Prince said in a note to employees obtained by Gizmodo. “My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are (anatomical profanity) and I'd had enough.”
Having his company embraced by white supremacists pushed him to his decision, he told Gizmodo.
“The Daily Stormer site was bragging on their bulletin boards about how Cloudflare was one of them and that is the opposite of everything we believe,” Prince said. “That was the tipping point for me.”
In a blog post later Wednesday, Prince noted that Cloudflare's withdrawal of protection would send a site like the Daily Stormer to its doom at the hands of activist hackers deploying Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, bombardment attacks.
“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,” he wrote. “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.'”
Prince acknowledged that he'd thrown the site to the wolves - or rather to online vigilantes.
“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,” he wrote.
But leaving the policing of online content up to “vigilante hackers” undermines “any rational concept of justice,” Prince wrote.
A company colleague noted the import of Prince's move against the neo-Nazi site.
“Someone on our team asked after I announced we were going to terminate the Daily Stormer: ‘Is this the day the Internet dies?'” Prince wrote.
“He was half joking, but only half. He's no fan of the Daily Stormer or sites like it. But he does realize the risks of a company like Cloudflare getting into content policing.”
Prince called for a clear framework for regulation of online content, in an age where control over content falls to a small number of big players.
“In a not-so-distant future, if we're not there already, it may be that if you're going to put content on the internet you'll need to use a company with a giant network like Cloudflare, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, or Alibaba,” he wrote.
“Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.”
The Daily Stormer moved to a Russian domain registry, but it was not accessible Wednesday evening.
“You've requested a page on a website (dailystormer.ru) that is on the Cloudflare network,” said a message that appeared when The Mercury News attempted to visit the site. “Cloudflare is currently unable to resolve your requested domain (dailystormer.ru).”
On Thursday, Radio Free Europe reported that the Daily Stormer's new Russian web host had suspended the site after the Russian government media regulator asked it to probe “extremist content” on the site. An attempt Thursday by The Mercury News to access the site showed it was offline.