Kiwifarms is over but the argument certainly is NOT. Everyone is right and everyone is also WRONG
WARNING: the queen has died. My prediction:
For all of those out there thanking her: are you okay? Did you know that she literally did nothing to make your life better and that actually she probably made it worse? Rest up buddy.
Anyway, now on to something that matters: this week was sort of okay I guess? 🤷. I decided to focus just one thing and I’m afraid it’s about Cloudflare and content moderation.
🚯 Should we just throw away the internet?
Last week I complained a lot about how Cloudflare were refusing to block Kiwifarms, an actively hateful website that incites real-world harm. Literally a day after I published, Cloudflare caved and blocked Kiwifarms. I don’t give a flying fart what that blog post says — they did this to save themselves from further reputational damage, and not because it was the right thing to do.
Cloudflare described this decision as “a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with”. Then they go on to describe how awful Kiwifarms is, but how important it is to provide security to anyone, even if they are posting illegal, disgusting, and harmful content, as illustrated with this ridiculous quote:
“In a law-respecting world, the answer to even illegal content is not to use other illegal means like DDoS attacks to silence it”
Here’s what I have to say about that: absolutely not. No matter how much they insisted otherwise, they were taking a stand by keeping Kiwifarms’ services running, and now they say that no one else should be able to express their distaste for such a website via direct action just because it’s technically illegal. Why are Cloudflare in this position? A corporate entity and enforcement arm of the state all at once? Unacceptable.
It’s time to get confused: I never fucking know what to think when something like this happens. The thing about free speech is, anyone can say anything, but you don’t have to like it, and THEY don’t have to like it when you yell in their face for being wrong. So when Cloudflare sit there and say ‘who are we to interfere with this’ they are right. Their job is to supply infrastructure, and the last thing I want is corporations becoming the ‘online police’. But on the other hand… they were completely wrong to leave such a horrible website unchecked. My question is: why? Where do we draw the line?
Is it because we disagree with the beliefs held by Kiwifarms members?
Is it because they use hateful and offensive language for fun?
Is it because they use the platform to organise real-world, targeted violence?
Think about the third point, and then think about how Facebook is also used for this purpose. What do we do? Take Facebook down too? No, that would be ridiculous — Facebook is a thriving digital space that you perhaps hate, but many people use for all kinds of things (I still use it to sell furniture tbh. It’s very fast and easy).
This all reminds me of Backpage: a website where you could go to buy sex services. Sex workers used it to find clients, and safely screen them online, instead of making snap decisions on the street, and potentially putting themselves in danger. This old episode of Reply All interviews a prostitution expert who says that female homicide rates were 17% lower in cities that had Craigslist Erotic Services. When the erotic services part of Craigslist was closed down, Backpage became the big site to use to safely find clients.
☝️ Please note that the stat is 17% percent of female homicides — this means having a space online to find sex work made the streets safer for all women in general, not just sex workers.
👎 However: in 2018 a bill in the US was passed, saying that websites which enable sex trafficking are no longer protected by section 230. Unfortunately, Backpage did contain ads for children and adults coerced into prostitution, and so it was finally taken down.
I really feel that in the case of Backpage, no one ‘won’. No matter what side of the argument you’re on, you come out either supporting violence against women, or supporting child sex abuse. People need safe ways to conduct sex work, and children should not be sold online for sex. Apparently, it hard to make both of those things a reality on the internet.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I think big ‘shut downs’ coming from the government — as usual — over-simplify the problem with a gruesomely blunt, unsophisticated solution. And in some cases, these ‘solutions’ are only designed to protect the ideals of free-market capitalism: it’s like the ongoing mission to crack down on online piracy, as if wanting AAA games, Hollywood movies, and overpriced software for free is unforgivably evil.
That’s all for now — I’m sorry if it sounds like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any thoughts, or just use the comments feature. Thank you!