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Internet Backbone Provider Hurricane Electric Censoring Kiwi Farms Sets a Dangerous Precedent

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Update: 9/3/2023: This post has been updated to clarify that Crunchbits is the direct customer of Hurricane Electric and that it is Incognet that is the direct service provider to Kiwi Farms.

While the “visible” part of the internet dominated by Big Tech is what most people think of when the topic of censorship is brought up, the problem reaches much deeper – all the way to internet backbone providers.

One of these, Hurricane Electric, has reportedly decided to participate in a somewhat roundabout way: in order to get to Kiwi Farms, this Tier 1 ISP is partially denying service to Crunchbits, a company that rents servers to privacy and free speech focused internet service provider and hosting company Incognet, which provides service to Kiwi Farms.

The case is a good example of the power that such ISPs, despite their “detached” from internet users mode of operation, have in deciding what those users can and cannot do online. This is because a great number of services – that are closer to the user, depend on them.

Related: Cloudflare dropping Kiwi Farms reflects the growing erosion of neutral internet infrastructure

Infrastructure providers who take it upon themselves to police online speech are additionally dangerous as purveyors of censorship because of their essential importance for the very functioning of the internet, and the fact that there is little alternative to speak of, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted, while reporting about the Kiwi Farms case.

The digital rights group’s verdict on this controversial activity of ISPs is clear: regardless of what kind of speech it is, they should not be the ones to suppress it.

However, it seems that Hurricane Electric has decided to do just that, even if the details are sketchy since the company does not want to respond to any questions related to the issue. However, EFF seems to believe that Crunchbits – which is the ISP’s direct customer – is indeed experiencing partial service denial, targeting Kiwi Farms.

And this is happening despite the fact that the site in question is, as EFF pointed out, “several steps away in the stack.” It has been reported that Hurricane’s justification for playing the role of a “censorship enabler” of sorts is Kiwi Farm’s violation of what it calls its acceptable use policy.

EFF remarked that if its own site, or that of some mainstream social media platform or progressive group was treated this way, there would be outrage. But Kiwi Farms is described as “an almost universally despised forum for hateful speech and planning vicious attacks on vulnerable people.”

And while EFF shares this sentiment, it does not agree with Hurricane’s behavior.

“Once an ISP indicates it’s willing to police content by blocking traffic, more pressure from other quarters will follow, and they won’t all share your views or values,” the group is warning.

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.

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