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Internet Firms Flex Muscle to Exile White Supremacists


FILE - The Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia, May 16, 2012.

Silicon Valley joined a swelling backlash against neo-Nazi groups in the United States on Wednesday as more technology companies removed white supremacists from their services in response to weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Social media networks Twitter and LinkedIn, music service Spotify and security firm CloudFlare were among the companies cutting off services to hate groups or removing material that they said spread hate.

Earlier in the week, Facebook, Alphabet and GoDaddy also took steps to block hate groups.

The wave of internet crackdowns against white nationalists and neo-Nazis reflected a rapidly changing mindset among Silicon Valley firms on how far they are willing to go to police hate speech.

Tech companies have taken down violent propaganda from Islamic State and other militant groups, in part in response to government pressure. But most internet companies have traditionally tried to steer clear of making judgments about content except in cases of illegal activity.

CloudFlare, which protects some 6 million websites from denial-of-service attacks and hacking, on Wednesday afternoon dropped coverage of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.

FILE - Matthew Prince of CloudFlare speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 in San Francisco, California, Sept. 22, 2015.
FILE - Matthew Prince of CloudFlare speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 in San Francisco, California, Sept. 22, 2015.

"I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet," CloudFlare founder and Chief Executive Matthew Prince said in an email to employees.

CloudFlare is well-known for defending even the most distasteful websites, and services like it are essential to the functioning of websites.

Daily Stormer helped organize the weekend rally in Charlottesville where a 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 people were injured when a man plowed a car into a crowd protesting the white nationalist gathering.

Daily Stormer has been accessible only intermittently the past few days after domain providers GoDaddy and Google Domains, a unit of Alphabet, said they would not serve the website.

By Wednesday, Daily Stormer had moved to a Russia-based internet domain, with an address ending in .ru. Later in the day, though, the site was no longer accessible at that address.

FILE - The home page of The Daily Stormer website, on which Andrew Anglin's blog appears.
FILE - The home page of The Daily Stormer website, on which Andrew Anglin's blog appears.


Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin said on a social network used by many of his supporters, Gab, that his site would be back soon.

"The CloudFlare betrayal adds another layer of super complexity. But we got this," he said. He could not immediately be reached for further comment.

Prince, the CloudFlare chief executive, said in an interview that despite his decision he was conflicted, because it could become harder to resist pressure from governments to censor.

"You don't have to play this game too many moves out to see how risky this is going to be," Prince said. "'What about this site? What about this site?'"

Only the biggest companies will be able to navigate the varying laws in different countries, he added. "We've lost a lot of the fight for a free and open internet."

FILE - A man reads tweets on his phone in front of a displayed Twitter logo, March 10, 2016.
FILE - A man reads tweets on his phone in front of a displayed Twitter logo, March 10, 2016.


Twitter on Wednesday suspended accounts linked to Daily Stormer. The company said it would not discuss individual accounts, but at least three affiliated with the Daily Stormer led to pages saying "account suspended."

The social network prohibits violent threats, harassment and hateful conduct and "will take action on accounts violating those policies," the company said in a statement.

Larger rival Facebook, which unlike Twitter explicitly prohibits hate speech, has taken down several pages from Facebook and Instagram in recent days that it said were associated with hate speech or hate organizations. It also took down the event page that was used to promote and organize the "Unite the Right" rally.

"With the potential for more rallies, we're watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm," CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Wednesday.

Facebook also said it had removed accounts belonging to Chris Cantwell, a web commentator who has described himself as a white nationalist and said on his site that he had attended the Charlottesville rally. Cantwell's YouTube account also appeared to have been terminated.

Cantwell could not immediately be reached for comment.

FILE - The logo for LinkedIn Corporation, a social networking website for people in professional occupations, is shown in Mountain View, California, Feb. 6, 2013.
FILE - The logo for LinkedIn Corporation, a social networking website for people in professional occupations, is shown in Mountain View, California, Feb. 6, 2013.

LinkedIn, a unit of Microsoft, suspended a page devoted to Daily Stormer and another page belonging to a man associated with the site, Andrew Auernheimer. LinkedIn declined to comment. Reddit this week eliminated one of its discussion communities that supported the Unite the Right rally, saying that the company would ban users who incite violence.

Spotify, based in Sweden, said it was in the process of removing musical acts from its streaming service that had been flagged as racist "hate bands" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"Illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us," the company said in a statement, adding that record companies should also be held responsible.

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