SAN FRANCISCO — Reversing course under growing public pressure, major tech security company Cloudflare announced Saturday that it will stop protecting the Kiwi Farms website, best known as a place for stalkers to organize hacks, online campaigns and real-world harassment.
Cloudfare chief executive Matthew Prince, who this past week published a lengthy blog post justifying the company’s services defending Kiwi Farms, told The Washington Post he changed his mind not because of the pressure but a surge in credible violent threats stemming from the site.
“As Kiwi Farms has felt more threatened, they have reacted by being more threatening,” Prince said. “We think there is an imminent danger, and the pace at which law enforcement is able to respond to those threats we don’t think is fast enough to keep up.”
Prince said contributors to the forum were posting home addresses of those seen as enemies and calling for them to be shot.
Kiwi Farms launched in 2013 and quickly grew into a popular internet forum for online harassment campaigns. At least three suicides have been tied to harassment stemming from the Kiwi Farms community, and many on the forum consider their goal to drive their targets to suicide. Members of the LGBTQ community and women are frequent targets.
Cloudflare has faced broad backlash in the past week as a campaign for it to drop the service gained steam and widened to pressure paying customers to drop Cloudflare if it held firm.
Two weeks ago, Prince said the company stopped selling Kiwi Farms a $20 per month service to customize error messages shown to web users when its pages wouldn’t load. On Saturday, it withdrew the remaining free services, which fend off denial-of-service attacks and speed content delivery by making copies of the site in many locations.
Clara Sorrenti, a trans Canadian Twitch streamer known online as Keffals, launched the #DropKiwiFarms campaign after being targeted by Kiwi Farms posters for over half a year.
Forum users had repeatedly doxed Sorrenti and her family, posting addresses and more, and last month they called in false crime reports to draw police to her home. Sorrenti fled to Northern Ireland late last month, and within 48 hours users of the forum had pinpointed her location and she began receiving threats.
On Saturday, she spoke with The Post just minutes after police had arrived at her residence after another swatting attempt.
“There are countless people suffering because of this website,” Sorrenti said. “Kiwi Farms isn’t about free speech, it’s about hate speech. The majority of the content on the site is threads used for targeted harassment against political targets.”
Sorrenti’s campaign against Cloudflare went viral in the past several days, with organizations and influencers joining in the call to ban Kiwi Farms from Cloudflare’s service. The Anti-Defamation League called Kiwi Farms an “extremist-friendly forum that has been the breeding ground for countless harassment campaigns.”
In the interview, Prince said he was uncomfortable dropping Kiwi Farms despite its content and would have preferred a court order.
But he said it was an easier call than his previous decisions to drop neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer and the 8chan website because those two were not hotbeds for specific violent plots.
Lorenz reported from Los Angeles.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.