In the last 48 hours, there have been two mass shootings in the US, the first in El Paso, Texas and the second in Dayton, Ohio. The shootings left 29 people dead and dozens more with injuries. Multiple reports are alleging that the El Paso shooter posted a manifesto to the online imageboard 8chan and this has triggered renewed calls for 8chan to be shut down.
Many of these calls have been directed at the internet infrastructure company Cloudflare which provides distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection to 8chan. Now Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince has responded to these calls by reiterating the company’s commitment to staying neutral when providing service.
In a statement to The Guardian, Prince said that while he personally feels that 8chan is an example of “all of the bad things that are on the internet,” he believes that deplatforming 8chan would not prevent the community from existing and would also cause it to be more lawless over time.
He went on to say that keeping “bad” sites within Cloudflare’s network allows the company to monitor activity and flag illegal content to law enforcement, adding that law enforcement regularly request that Cloudflare does not ban certain sites.
Prince finished by saying that from a pure business perspective, kicking 8chan off of Cloudflare would be the right answer but he thinks the company has a moral obligation to keep the site in its network:
“We, as well as all tech companies, have an obligation to think about how we solve real problems of real human suffering and death. What happened in El Paso today is abhorrent in every possible way, and it’s ugly, and I hate that there’s any association between us and that … For us the question is which is the worse evil? Is the worse evil that we kick the can down the road and don’t take responsibility? Or do we get on the phone with people like you and say we need to own up to the fact that the internet is home to many amazing things and many terrible things and we have an absolute moral obligation to deal with that.”
Prince’s comments on why Cloudflare will continue providing service to 8chan are reflective of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) warnings about the dangers of excessive online content moderation in the wake of the New Zealand mass shooting last year. In a post on these dangers, the EFF expressed concerns that increased moderation of content on the internet would make it more difficult to showcase and gather evidence of crimes and could ultimately cause platforms to “over-censor.”