Cloudflare ends services for “lawless” 8chan after the El Paso massacre this past weekend. Cloudflare said it was terminating its services to 8chan because this is where the El Paso gunman reportedly posted a racist “manifesto” shortly before killing 20 people. It also gave valuable insights into why it even occurred. In a blog post announcing the move, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince described the no-censorship site as “a cesspool of hate.” Despite Cloudflare’s move, Prince said terminating services to sites like 8chan would not make the internet safer or reduce online hate. So why do it?
Two years ago, after a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which a woman was killed, Cloudflare stopped providing services to the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Prince goes on to say, “Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting. They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare’s problem, but they remain the Internet’s problem.” Don’t bother looking for it online unless you are internet savvy (i.e. Tor), you won’t find it, but for sure it is still there and well hidden. Daily Stormer has officially retreated to the dark web, with 8chan sure to follow. That being said for the average user it is effectively offline. A censorship win? For now yes.
For the past few years, social media has already been at war with online users with heavy censorship on their platforms. But the censorship war is moving on, and the “nefarious” users as well. This includes ISP platforms, hosting providers, payment processors (cryptocurrencies), and various tools (i.e. Tor) that allow a user to escape detection. There are literally thousands of forums and bulletin boards chat rooms that can provide links and know-how to access such information. It will be hard to censor everything but for sure it will slow down the casual user – the masses. Which is really the goal.
Here’s the problem. Censorship will have no limits. What is obvious hate speech today will not be so obvious tomorrow. What is hate speech? We won’t try to answer that question here, but for sure we don’t believe anybody else could either. This is the point of free speech. Censorship will be used nefariously and will overreach, in government control, political control and even commercial control. Power seems to always extend without limits. Regardless of any constitutional laws that maybe being broken, humans will always have a desire to speak their minds, no matter how bad the speech may be.
Radical users will be pushed off into the dark corner of the internet, but as censorship gets more and more dubious, what today is a small group of radicals will be a huge user base tomorrow. All with their own hidden news, opinions, infrastructure, and even commercialization (cryptocurrencies). This already exists to a certain degree, but only the technical savvy can participate. But as the desire for freedom grows, new less tech-savvy users will learn. It will even become cool (Don’t believe me? Try Discord or Paltak – and see the human wastelands.). This is called the Streisand effect. This a phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely.
So again, News Forecasters asks will this censorship work? News Forecasters says short-term yes, giving commercial cover to companies avoiding the problem, but long-term no for society. The small ragtag group of radicals will turn into a movement, a movement that then will be even harder to contain. The “splinterization” of the internet will occur, it already has started and will be in full effect in 5 to 7 years. There are probably better solutions, but this is beyond the purview of News Forecasters.
A video presentation of this subject: