This afternoon, the Russian relaunch of Daily Stormer disappeared, just as the original site disappeared on Tuesday. With that disappearance, the web’s most notorious neo-Nazi website was no longer available anywhere on the conventional web.
The disappearance came after a decision made at CloudFlare, a content distribution network that Stormer has long used as protection from denial-of-service attacks.
Reached by The Verge, CEO Matthew Prince said the decision to drop the site was a difficult one.
“This was my decision, I don’t think it’s CloudFlare’s policy and I think it’s an extremely dangerous decision in a lot of ways,” Prince said. “I think that we as the internet need to have a conversation about where the right place for content restriction is...but there was no way we could have that conversation until we resolved this particular issue.”
According to Prince, the last straw wasn’t an official post, but a comment by one of the site’s readers. “The thing that ultimately upset me was that on their forums, they were saying ‘Hey CloudFlare is one of us,’ which we aren’t,” Prince said. “So I got tired of it and pulled the plug.” Prince elaborated more on the reasoning in a blog post on CloudFlare’s site.
CloudFlare never directly hosted the Daily Stormer, but by distributing it through a broader network, the company made it impossible to discover the original host, which made it difficult for activists to take direct action against the site. Without CloudFlare’s network, the Daily Stormer could still serve up the site directly, but doing so would expose their host. The site owners seem to have decided that reveal would be too risky.
Writing on Gab, site founder Andrew Anglin pledged to carry on without the network. “The CloudFlare betrayal adds another layer of super complexity,” Algin wrote. “But we got this.”
The decision comes after sustained pressure on CloudFlare to drop the site, and a long-standing insistence from Prince that the network must remain content neutral. In a 2015 speech at the Black Hat conference, he explained the company’s stance as a necessary hedge against the increasing consolidation of internet infrastructure. “It’s an easy thing to say you should kick all the bad sites off your network,” Prince said at the time, “but it’s hard to say what exactly is bad.”
Still, that neutrality hasn’t always been easy to defend. In May, a ProPublica article revealed that the company was forwarding complaints against the Daily Stormer to the site owner, revealing the filers’ names. CloudFlare changed its abuse reporting policy shortly after the issue came to light.
Today’s move comes after a wave of companies turning their backs on the Daily Stormer and other white nationalist sites. In the wake of the killing of a protestor in Charlottesville, platforms like Facebook, Discord and GoFundMe have all taken direct steps to ban white nationalist content, often employing far more aggressive measures than had been previously used.
Still, Prince insists the most difficult questions raised by the ban are still unanswered. “I don’t think this is as much of a free speech issue as a due process issue,” Prince said. “If you participate in a system, you should be able to know up front what the rules of that system are.”
Update 6:40PM ET: Updated with official CloudFlare post.