by Drew Edmondson
The September 7th issue of the Oklahoman, page 8B, carried the headline, “Cloudflare drops hate site Kiwi Farms, citing danger”.
First, I had never heard of “Cloudflare” or “Kiwi Farms” but was curious what the danger might be, so I read the story.
Kiwi Farms is alleged to be a notorious stalking and harassment site. Their targets, at least the ones sparking the immediate action by their host site, were transgender individuals and feminists and “others they deem mockable.”
Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, was quoted in the Oklahoman as saying, “…we believe there is an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life unlike what we have previously seen from Kiwifarms or any other customer before.”
Second, I had to consider what a sheltered life I lead not to know about such things. The people around me, whether they are Rotarians or not, basically want to know if things are True before they say them. It is important that they be Fair. They try to build Goodwill and Better Friendships and they want what they say and do to be Beneficial to all concerned.
These concepts are alien, apparently, to the folks at Kiwi Farms. They engage is “doxxing” their targets. Doxxing is spreading vile rumors about people they do not care for and passing those rumors around the target’s workplace, friends, family and homes. In the legal world we call that “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Another weapon is “swatting” people, making false emergency calls to provoke an armed police response to a target’s home.
This was by-lined as an Associated Press story, and it reported that KiwiFarms.ru is registered to and protected by the Russian company DDoS-Guard whose customers have in the past included Russian government websites. They also protect cybercriminal forums where stolen credit cards are bought and sold.
Third, I had to come to grips with the fact that I strongly support the First Amendment and freedoms of speech and press. But, the old law school adage is true – your right to free speech does not include yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. You have no right to deliberately harm others. Rotarians do not have to be told that.
When people are forced to move; when people lose their jobs over falsehoods; when people are driven to suicide because of these very tactics, enough is enough. This is terrorism on a personal level.
There will be no easy fix. Government can not and should not rush to shut down such sites. A democracy demands free and open avenues to exchange and challenge ideas and propose or oppose solutions. However, government at the state and national level could explore providing additional tools to law enforcement to ferret out and sanction speech that is both hateful and hurtful, dangerously hurtful. Incitement to violence has long been illegal – it is not pure speech, it is action.
As we await governmental initiatives that may never come, we might all be more alert and aware that these forces are out there. They are communicating not only with each other but with our workplaces, our communities, and with our children.
When you see or hear such personal attacks, ask first, and in my view most importantly, is it the Truth.
Is it Fair.
And do not be afraid, be inspired. Remember, when they come for you there may not be anyone left to protest.