Since its launch in 2013, the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has quickly become the go-to spot for racists on the internet, says ProPublica. Traffic is up lately at other white supremacist sites like The Right Stuff, Iron March, American Renaissance and Stormfront. The operations of such extreme sites are made possible, in part, by Cloudfare, an otherwise very mainstream internet company. Based in San Francisco, Cloudflare operates more than 100 data centers spread across the world, serving as a sort of middleman for websites — speeding up delivery of a site’s content and protecting it from several kinds of attacks. Cloudflare says that some 10 percent of web requests flow through its network, and the company’s mainstream clients range from the FBI to the dating site OKCupid.
The widespread use of Cloudflare’s services by racist groups is not an accident. Cloudflare has said it is not in the business of censoring websites and will not deny its services to even the most offensive purveyors of hate. “A website is speech. It is not a bomb,” Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince wrote in 2013. He said “no provider has an affirmative obligation to monitor and make determinations about the theoretically harmful nature of speech a site may contain.” Cloudflare has an added appeal to sites such as The Daily Stormer: It turns over to the hate sites the personal information of people who criticize their content. This has led to campaigns of harassment against those people.