Neo-Nazis and the Right to be on the Internet
I want to start off this article by saying I’m Jewish. To cement that point, here is a picture of me with a Star of David tattoo, alongside one of my Rabbis after morning prayers.
So it should be quite obvious that I don’t care for anything that thedailystormer.com says. It’s a Neo-Nazi, Anti-Semitic, White supremacist, and pro National Socialist site and I am a Jew who’s Moroccan on my father’s side. You know, a bunch of brown people, and I am the first American (born here in the USA) with my family name.
The guy behind the Daily Stormer said, “The term ‘Neo-Nazi’ is clearly a slur, and I’m not certain I want to repeat everything like it was in Hitler’s Germany. But I agree with all the core principles of National Socialism.” –Anglin.
This further cements my point (I’m not making things up).
However this article isn’t about the Daily Stormer, but rather about free speech on the internet.
A lot of free, “libre,” and open-source software advocates are up in arms about the unprecedented moves after Charlottesville, Virginia’s “Unite the Right” rally.
There is an extremely strong amount of virtue signaling, and knee-jerk attempts to silence speech which is disapproved of.
Let’s look beyond the fact that it was the Daily Stormer which was affected; again I’m Jewish, from brown people, and I whole-heartedly disagree with this site and what they stand for. But, let’s pretend the site affected was reason.com, beinglibertarian.com, foxnews.com, ronpaul.com, or any site you like which may post views that people don’t agree with at times?
So what exactly happened to The Daily Stormer?
Their domain and DNS hosting was revoked by GoDaddy, which many sites, including ours use to purchase our domains.
GoDaddy decided, after 4 years of hosting this site that it was now in violation of their terms of service: yes we know businesses can do as they please however, there are hundreds of sites which advocate horrible things still hosted on GoDaddy.
So, after being revoked by GoDaddy, they moved over to Google and had their DNS hosting revoked by Google within hours. They didn’t make a statement or anything but rather just shut them down, and this time, also shutdown their YouTube channel.
They tried hosting on Tucows, which had made myself and others laugh because I haven’t used them for years, I remember thinking, “wait… they still exist?”
All of these events happened not within a matter of weeks, or days, but rather mere hours. Facebook then took it an extra step and banned all links to The Daily Stormer.
Go ahead and type www.thedailystormer.com in Facebook, even to link to an article to say you don’t agree with it and it won’t work as of this article.
So, not only did all these registrars, within hours, say you can’t be allowed on the internet, but Facebook then said you are not even allowed to be talked about on Facebook, which is scary because what if Facebook did this to Being Libertarian? Oh… wait, that’s already happened to Occupy Democrats Logic and our group (Being Libertarian) a few months back. News of this actually made it all the way to Buzzfeed. It was only after some media backlash that we were restored on Facebook.
Now this should be quite scary, as this is GoDaddy, Facebook, Google, and others all going after a single website merely because they don’t like what the website says; the content in question, while horrible, is not illegal.
To add insult to injury CloudFlare decided to cancel all services to The Daily Stormer.
For those who don’t know, CloudFlare is a “denial of service” protection and “content delivery network.” Even Being Libertarian uses CloudFlare to protect ourselves (and speed up our sites) along with about 10% of the entire internet.
What’s more concerning is the reasoning, seeing as for a long time CloudFlare had a policy to remain content-neutral.
Let’s read what the CEO of CloudFlare said about this ordeal in an internal email:
“Earlier today CloudFlare terminated the account of The Daily Stormer. We’ve stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We’ve taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for CloudFlare’s services again.
This was my decision. Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind The Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.
Let me be clear: this was an arbitrary decision. It was different than what I’d talked with our senior team about yesterday. I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet. I called our legal team and told them what we were going to do. I called our Trust & Safety team and had them stop the service. It was a decision I could make because I’m the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company.
Having made that decision we now need to talk about why it is so dangerous. I’ll be posting something on our blog later today. Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.
[CloudFlare employee’s name redacted] asked after I told him what we were going to do: “Is this the day the Internet dies?” He was half joking, but I actually think it’s an important question. It’s important that what we did today not set a precedent. The right answer is for us to be consistently content neutral. But we need to have a conversation about who and how the content online is controlled. We couldn’t have that conversation while The Daily Stormer site was using us. Now, hopefully, we can.”
Let’s look at this for a second. His reasoning was they were “assholes” and that he “woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet.” He even admitted himself it was “an arbitrary decision.”
How can CloudFlare remain content-neutral when they have just pulled this stunt? Literally the CEO of a company said someone was an asshole and I am going to kick you off the internet. Do you know how many times a day we at Being Libertarian are called assholes merely for not agreeing with someone else’s views? It scares the crap out of me and many people that this could be arbitrarily done.
He says that the discussion about who and how the content online is controlled couldn’t occur with The Daily Stormer using their services. That is completely wrong as that discussion could have easily occurred with them still using your services, especially seeing as Al Qaeda and some other groups apparently use CloudFlare to protect their own sites.
He also said, “It’s important that what we did today not set a precedent. The right answer is for us to be consistently content neutral. But we need to have a conversation about who and how the content online is controlled.” But the problem is, by taking this action you have already set a precedent. That is by definition the meaning of the word “precedent.”
He just contradicted himself as well by saying we need to remain content-neutral and following it up with wanting a conversation about who and how the content is controlled online.
After that whole ordeal with what has been discussed, they attempted to move their site to a .ru domain, but were revoked by a Russian registrar. Currently they have had to move to the “dark net,” only accessible via a Tor browser.
So what does this all mean for us as libertarians, or anyone with a controversial viewpoint? Apparently that if your ideas are unpopular that you should be taken off-line. Because the truth is, there is a very small and elite set of companies which control a few key parts of the internet. And that if you say something they disagree with, or are unpopular you can be taken offline.
Now, I would like to conclude that I (and my team here) are on the complete opposite end of the table in terms of view points from The Daily Stormer team.
We would most certainly not get along if we were in the same room.
However, that doesn’t mean the man doesn’t have the right to have a voice on the internet. After all one of the core principles of the internet is the ability to have the freedom to speak and say whatever online to whomever. I have said this before to my friends and I will say it here, “My right to free speech does not end where your feelings begin. You have the right to offend as much as you have the right to free speech.”
You cannot change someone’s mind by forcibly silencing them. It merely turns them into a martyr.
All of the companies mentioned, Facebook, Google, Tucows, CloudFlare, and GoDaddy; by shutting down a site which said things you and I don’t like, by doing what you did, you turned a small-medium sized entity into a big deal on the internet and gave them all sorts of free press to help grow them even more, and even potentially help solidify their positions even more.
I have never talked about The Daily Stormer before; neither have any of my friends, until you all did what you did. Just like when we (Being Libertarian) were taken off of Facebook at a mere 100,000 likes and follows, and we are now near 500,000 likes and follows.
Forcibly silencing someone helps, not hurts, their position. You should learn this lesson very well.
It’s all because of you companies that think it is your right and duty to tell people what we should read, believe, and think. Your companies are a critical part of the internet infrastructure now, but you do not have the right to take what is basically a public service and just turn that off arbitrarily, just like you can’t arbitrarily turn water off, stop us from breathing oxygen, or restrict us from saying what we believe.
I would also like to thank fellow free, libre, and open source software advocate, and also fellow Jew, Bryan Lunduke for bringing these important points up to the FLOSS community where I found out about all this; despite vehemently disagreeing with the content of The Daily Stormer.
Now excuse me, I need a very long, hot shower, to wash away this dirty feeling of standing up for neo-Nazis.