Culture

EFF criticizes tech companies for exiling neo-Nazi website

The digital rights organization says the same tactics could be used against other organizations.

Censorship

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A digital rights organization criticized companies that effectively blocked a neo-Nazi website from publishing on the web, saying the tactics used to silence hate speech could ultimately be used against other groups.

In a blog post published on Thursday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said decisions by GoDaddy, Google and Cloudflare to revoke services to The Daily Stormer set an example of how other organizations, such as civil rights groups, could be prevented from expressing themselves in the future. 

"All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country," the EFF wrote in its post. "But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with."

Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, said the EFF's concerns were justified and echoed those his company expressed when it made the decision to terminate services to The Stormer.

"We wholeheartedly agree with the concerns outlined by the EFF," Prince said in an email. "They reflect the same risks we outlined in our blog."

A Google representative said the company cancelled The Stormer's registration for violating its terms of service amid a concern the website was inciting violence. 

GoDaddy didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The EFF's comment comes as Silicon Valley struggles to balance protecting free speech with curbing hate speech. The three companies revoked domain registration and performance services to The Stormer after it published an offensive article about Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was protesting against a white nationalist rally

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 Click to see our in-depth coverage of online hatred.

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The Stormer, an openly racist and anti-Semitic publication, currently can't be found by search engines and is visible to users of the Tor browser who have its address on the dark web. 

A host of technology companies have reacted to the violence in Charlottesville, which also left 30 injured. Twitter suspended accounts related to The Stormer; Discord, a chat service for gamers, shut down several servers that white supremacists were using to communicate; Apple and PayPal disabled services to merchants glorifying white nationalism or racism; and Reddit and Facebook banned groups dedicated to hate speech. 

First published Aug. 18, 12:26 a.m. PT
Update, 5:00 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Cloudflare, Google.

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