Does Cloudflare censor websites?

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Main topic: Tech
Other topics: Cloudflare, Censorship
Short answer: While Cloudflare does not censor and supports free speech for content delivered via its network, it has taken arbitrary exceptions to refuse service to a certain website.

Cloudflare is one of the largest content delivery networks and web security service providers. It does not host any content but optimizes and secures the delivery of content of the clients to their users.

Cloudflare's policy for censorship and free speech[edit]

Cloudflare has a history to support free speech for the content delivered via its network.[1] However, Cloudflare's terms of service reserve the right for them to refuse the service to the users of their network at their discretion.

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, has argued in a blog post that the Internet required a better procedure for determining content censorship where publishers are afforded a legal process and which does not allow few individuals like himself to make these decisions. [2]

Criticism of Cloudflare's free speech support[edit]

Cloudflare has often been criticized and highlighted for providing delivery optimization services to several websites deemed as hate or misinformation websites. [3]

Cloudflare refused to censor Kavkaz Center[edit]

The Kernel, a technology news site, claimed that Cloudflare supports terrorism by providing content delivery network services to the Chechen news site Kavkaz Center. [4]

Kavkaz Center Website

The CEO of Cloudflare published a blog post in response on the company's website reaffirming its dedication to free expression.

He quoted "A website is a speech. It is not a bomb. There is no imminent danger it creates and no provider has an affirmative obligation to monitor and make determinations about the theoretically harmful nature of speech a site may contain." [5]

Cloudflare censored Daily Stormer[edit]

In 2017, Cloudflare's CEO took an arbitrary decision to take down the neo-nazi website Daily Stormer. Daily Stormer was arranging marches and there was a fatal incident which caused widespread public backlash. GoDaddy and Google refused to provide service to Daily Stormer after the incident. Cloudflare was the last company to withdraw its service. Cloudflare's CEO has been publicly quoted as saying that this incident will not set a precedent and that he wanted to start a conversation about the pitfalls of censorship.[6]

Legal aspects of Cloudflare's censorship decisions[edit]

Cloudflare is legally immune to any objectionable content using and delivered via its network. Cloudflare's decision to support the free speech cannot be challenged in court of law. [7]

Their terms of use prohibits any content which is deemed unlawful. Notably, their terms of use explicitly reserve the right for them to refuse their services at discretion. They have invoked the clause and blocked services for 8chan website.[8]

References[edit]

  1. Alspach, Kyle (2022-08-31). "Cloudflare probably won't terminate services for 'despicable' sites". Protocol. Retrieved 2022-09-30.
  2. "Why We Terminated Daily Stormer". Cloudflare Blog. 17/08/2017. Retrieved 30/09/2022. Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  3. "Cloudflare Optimizing Content Delivery For At Least 48 Hate Sites Across Europe". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2022-09-30.
  4. Dredge, Stuart (2013-08-12). "CloudFlare on censorship: 'A website is speech. It is not a bomb'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2022-09-30.
  5. "Cloudflare and Free Speech". Cloudflare Blog. Retrieved 30/09/2022. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. Johnson, Steven. "Inside Cloudflare's Decision to Let an Extremist Stronghold Burn". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2022-09-30.
  7. Chintalapoodi, Chip Law Group-Pramod (2021-12-22). "Cloudflare Not Liable for Infringement by Sites That Use Its Services". Lexology. Retrieved 2022-09-30.
  8. Reuters (2019-08-05). "Cloudflare terminates 8chan as customer on 'hate-filled' content after El Paso massacre". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2022-09-30.