Internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare drops popular stalking and harassment website Kiwi Farms

Ukraine – 06/29/2021: In this photo illustration, the Cloudflare logo of an American Internet company appears on a smartphone screen. (Image illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Citing a “direct threat to human life,” Cloudflare has dropped Kiwi Farms’ infamous site for stalking and harassment from its online security services after an online campaign initiated by transgender Twitch Streamer Clara Sorrenti to pressure him to do so.

CEO Matthew Prince wrote in Blog post Saturday in a turnaround after earlier insisting that the company would not block the site. “However, the rhetoric on Kiwifarms and the specific and targeted threats have escalated in the past 48 hours to the point where we believe there is an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life unlike what we have seen previously from Kiwifarms or any other customer before.”

For years, members of the site created and managed by Joshua Conner Moon, 29, have gathered in what they call a “lightweight discussion forum” to stage fierce harassment campaigns against transgender people, feminists and others who they see as ridiculous. They team up with victims and collect their personal data such as addresses and phone numbers in a practice called “doxxing”, to spread vile rumors and target workplaces, friends, families and homes. Another preferred method is “beating” – making false emergency calls to provoke an armed police response at the target’s home. Some people were abused by the group died by suicide.

Sorrenti, who goes to the “Keffals” website, is leading a campaign to pressure Cloudflare to bring down Kiwi Farms. In August, she fled her home in Canada to Europe after being murdered and beaten. However, her online stalkers found her in Belfast, Ireland, and they continued to intensify their harassment campaign against her just as her campaign against Kiwi Farms and her enablers was gaining momentum.

“When a multi-billion dollar company like Cloudflare is forced to abandon Kiwi Farms due to an ‘imminent and threatening threat to human life,’ it is no longer a question of freedom of speech. Removing Kiwi Farms from the Internet is a matter of public safety for everyone on the Internet,” she tweeted on Saturday.

On Sunday, Kiwi Farms was inaccessible. But the version of the site with the .ru domain name was working intermittently, although it was not clear whether it would still be running.

The decision to abandon Kiwi Farms Saturday was a turnaround for Cloudflare and Prince, who earlier in the week published a 2,600-word blog post—not mentioning the site by name—doubling down on the decision to protect it and comparing Cloudflare to a phone company that “don’t end your line if you say” Horrible, racist, bigoted stuff.”

But Sorrenti and other site targets say it was much worse than that, as the site’s trolls have been relentlessly hunting their victims – often for years on end.

“They’re trying to get people to lose their jobs. They’re trying to make people lose their housing, they’re starving and they’re homeless,” said Liz Fong-Jones, a former Google engineer and cloud computing and transgender expert. AP last week. “Then they go after people’s families and then tell people the only way out is to kill themselves.”

Moon Kiwi Farms started nearly a decade ago as a wiki dedicated to harassing a transgender woman. Moon even used the woman’s initials in an early version of the site’s name. Over time, its users began to target other people – mostly active online users who are transgender, have autism or other mental conditions. The kiwi farm in its current form was born in 2015.

An overarching topic of the site’s discussions focuses on users’ fierce opposition to transgender children receiving gender-confirming medical care. Members typically refer to those who support such treatment as “nanny” and “pedophiles,” a rhetoric increasingly used by conservatives in their opposition to LGBT rights.

“There has never been a violent incident in our history, which cannot be said of many other sites still on Cloudflare. This account seems like a lie wrapped up to save face,” Moon, who publishes in Kiwi Farms under the pseudonym “Null Posted Saturday in response to Cloudflare’s cut. The Associated Press was earlier contacted for comment on the campaign against his site, with Moon only replying that “the press is scum.”

KiwiFarms.ru is registered and protected by the Russian company DDoS-Guard, whose clients in the past included Russian government websites including the Ministry of Defense and cybercrime forums where stolen credit cards are bought and sold.

Last year, DDoS-Guard protected the pro-Trump social networking site Parler.com for a while after Amazon pulled its hosting services. KiwiFarms.ru was registered on July 12, which indicates that Moon was aware that Cloudflare could take down his site, and therefore created a backup plan.

The DDoS-Guard did not immediately respond to a letter seeking comment on Sunday. Kiwi Farms’ internet connection is provided by VegasNAP, a Las Vegas-based company that said in response to inquiries last week that it does not disclose information about its customers. Called back on Sunday, and the company did not immediately respond.

“In the past, DDoS-Guard has been known to stop support for some seriously problematic websites, apparently as a result of press inquiries. It might well happen again, in this case, but I wouldn’t bet on it,” independent internet expert Ron Gilmet. “Obviously a lot has changed in the world since February 24, 2022, and I think that in general, the Russians these days, and over the past six months in particular, have learned to care a lot about what the world remains about them and/or their actions.”

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