It’s been a tumultuous week for The Daily Stormer, one of the internet’s leading neo-Nazi gutters. Several web hosting companies have kicked Daily Stormer off their services, and now it appears that Cloudflare, the company that has long protected The Daily Stormer from DDoS attacks, has ended its business with the website too.
[Update: Gizmodo obtained an internal email by Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince describing his rationale for severing ties with The Daily Stormer.]
Cloudflare, a company that offers security and performance optimization to its clients, has protected the neo-Nazi wesbite for years. Because Cloudflare isn’t a host of its content, the company has argued that it has no control over what gets posted on sites it protects. Cloudflare has opted to remain content-neutral, allowing even extremist sites like The Daily Stormer to use its services — that is, until now.
The Stormer was kicked off Cloudflare today—DNS records showed The Stormer on a Cloudflare IP this morning, but no longer do, and the site’s sysadmin, notorious neo-Nazi hacker Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, has confirmed Cloudflare’s service was terminated to the Washington Times.
In an email on Tuesday, Cloudflare CEO Michael Prince told employees the decision was his and his alone. “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion,” the email reads.“My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.”
The decision to continue working with The Stormer was subject to internal debate at the company yesterday, according to a source with knowledge of the discussion. Some employees argued that Cloudflare should stick with its long-held habit of protecting sites regardless of content while others questioned Cloudflare’s position.
“Having made that decision we now need to talk about why it is so dangerous,” Prince’s email continues. “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.”
Protecting websites regardless of their content has been a core value and point of pride at Cloudflare. CEO Matthew Prince stage-crashed a talk at the security conference Black Hat in 2013 to defend the company’s policy (at the time, Cloudflare was under fire for protecting websites that promoted DDoS-for-hire services). “Where would you draw the line?” Prince asked at the time.
It looks like the answer to his question has finally emerged.
But Cloudflare’s business relationship with The Stormer has been extensive. The company faced criticism earlier this year for its practice of passing on complaints it received about site content to the site operators themselves. This strategy meant that, whenever someone complained about neo-Nazi content on The Stormer to Cloudflare, Cloudflare responded by sending the complainant’s contact information to The Stormer, exposing them to harassment. Cloudflare changed its policy and no longer passes complaints about certain kinds of content to site operators.
An obscure den of racism until this week, The Stormer was widely cited by cable news outlets after applauding President Donald Trump’s initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazi James Alex Fields allegedly drove a car into a group of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Hayer.
Following public outcry over the Stormer’s vile coverage of the Charlottesville tragedy, the site has spent the week bouncing around the internet hoping to find a domain name service provider that wouldn’t care it promotes hate speech that often leads to threats of violence. The Stormer attempted a transfer to Google’s service after being booted by GoDaddy on Monday. But Google quickly cancelled the site’s registration for violating the company’s terms of service.
The Stormer found a new domain on Wednesday, officially becoming a Russian website after adopting an .ru extension, though it appears to be maintaining its presence on the dark web. Andrew Anglin, the site’s founder, has credited Auernheimer with getting The Stormer back online.
An Ohio native, Anglin launched the The Daily Stormer in 2013, naming the site after Der Stürmer, a Nazi propaganda tabloid founded in the 1923. Known for its boorish and “shocking” attacks on Muslims, Jews, and other American minority groups, the website attracts significant engagement from hardcore racists online.
Anglin supported Trump’s bid for the presidency early on in the campaign, writing in April 2016: “Jews, Blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected—and he’s happy about it. This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man.”