Digital security company Cloudflare announced Sunday that it will stop providing services to 8chan in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, leaving the web forum popular with white supremacists vulnerable to cyberattack.
Cloudflare’s decision comes a day after El Paso shooting suspect Patrick Crusius purportedly posted a racist statement on 8chan, before allegedly killing 20 people. The tech company’s move means that 8chan will lack a key protection against distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos), in which hackers bring down websites by swamping them with fake web traffic.
In a blog post announcing the decision, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince called 8chan a “cesspool of hate.” The suspects behind the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shooting and the Poway, California, synagogue shooting also allegedly posted statements before the shootings on 8chan.
“At some level firing 8chan as a customer is easy,” Prince wrote. “They are uniquely lawless and that lawlessness has contributed to multiple horrific tragedies. Enough is enough.”
The move marks a reversal for Cloudflare, which had announced earlier Sunday that it would continue to protect 8chan.
8chan didn’t respond to a request for comment. On Sunday, 8chan creator Frederick Brennan, who no longer runs the forum, called for 8chan to be shut down.
Cloudflare, whose network handles nearly 20 percent of the internet’s top 10,000 sites, has traditionally been reluctant to pull its services from extremist or hateful websites, even in the face of criticism from tech activists. But Prince said 8chan had set up its forums, where white supremacists and conspiracy theorists proliferate, to be “lawless and unmoderated.”
“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths,” Prince wrote. “Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”
Cloudflare will pull its services from 8chan at midnight Pacific time, potentially meaning that the site will be forced offline in the face of cyberattacks until it can find another company willing to protect it from DDoS attacks.
In a similar situation in 2017, Cloudflare stopped offering its services to neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. The Daily Stormer temporarily went offline but eventually was able to find another company that could offer it protection from DDoS attacks.