Researchers say Cloudflare is a haven for misinformation

cloudflare is one of dozens of companies that keep the internet quietly running – helping 36 million Web pages per second reach Internet users as intended. But it also now faces scrutiny for its role in keeping platforms that have been described as toxic and repugnant and working, too.

Recently, she was pressured by activists who urged her to withdraw her services from Kiwi Farms, an online group. described by New York magazine As “the largest forum for stalkers on the web”.

Kiwi Farms is said to be behind an ongoing harassment campaign targeting direct and active converts – an effort so devastating that He led his target into hiding advance this month. The insider has This has been reportedIn the past, harassment campaigns from kiwi farms have been linked to three suicides.

Although Cloudflare does not host Kiwi Farms (and thus, does not have complete control over whether it stays online), it does provide several major site services, Axios reports.

Critics say Cloudflare – and its ilk – turn a blind eye to hate and misinformation. They channeled their anger under various hashtags on Twitter, including # Hahaha And the # Cloudflies.

So far, Cloudflare has declined to comment on the allegations, and whether it will continue to work with Kiwi Farms. The company did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.

The huge role of companies like Cloudflare

Cloudflare is, at its core, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that quickly serves websites to users that they request through their web browsers. It also defends sites against attackers. James Ball, author The Interlocking Web We Weave: Inside the Shadow System That Makes the Internettold TIME that such companies are the “backbone of the modern Internet”.

But a new study suggests that Cloudflare also plays a large role in supporting sites that spread hate and misinformation. The Study May 2022 Researchers from Stanford University analyzed the services that hosted 440 of the world’s most prominent disinformation sites.

They found that Cloudflare was a safe haven for toxicity. Although Cloudflare hosts only one in five major online sites, it hosts one in three sites primarily known to spread hate speech or misinformation.

This makes Cloudflare the primary platform for disinformation websites that I’ve used to host since 2015.

“We have anecdotally found that sites prefer Cloudflare due to its lax acceptable use policies and free DDoS protection services that help protect against gatekeeper attacks,” the researchers wrote. They noted that AmmoLand, a popular gun rights blog, had praised the company for its “content-neutral” stance.

Cloudflare is not alone in its position of laissez-faire – other companies also continue to provide services that, if denied to toxic sites like Kiwi Farms, will disrupt those sites.

Amazon, Google, GoDaddy, and Unified Layer rank the top five CDNs that host misinformation sites, according to Stanford University researchers.

Paul says that many CDNs argue that they are service-neutral providers who simply pass data through their systems to satisfy a user’s request.

But Paul says, “It’s not true, though.” It points to the ways in which social media companies have routinely, albeit imperfectly, booted toxic users. “Just like social networks choose who is allowed to use their platform, CDNs choose their customers.”

These choices have consequences, Paul says: “The decision to continue serving customers is a decision to help them get their content out.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or is considering suicide, call or text 988. In an emergency, call 911 or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

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