Cloudflare to Allow Anonymous Abuse Reports, Refuses to Censor Internet
Cloudflare will allow people to anonymously report abusive online content, but refuses to censor the Internet. The decision comes after ProPublica has argued that the Internet company helps serve up hate on the Web by allowing sites that feature such content to carry on.
Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince signed a blog post in which he discusses the issue, detailing the way the company’s abuse reporting system works.
“Cloudflare will forward all abuse reports that appear to be legitimate to the responsible hosting provider and to the website owner,” he said. Of course, since no one reads the disclaimers, people weren’t aware that this was done alongside personally identifying details, such as name and email address.
ProPublica wrote that people complaining to Cloudflare about a neo-Nazi site and the hate it serves on a daily basis were surprised to find out that the site’s owner received their signed complaints, complete with email address. This, in turn, has led to harassment campaigns against those protesting against the offensive material.
Those days are likely over now, because people will be able to choose whether to sign the complaints or file them anonymously. This, however, might create other problems, Prince notes.
“Anonymous reporting opens a new vector for malicious actors to submit false reports and harass Cloudflare customers. In addition, for responsible Cloudflare customers who want to act on reports, anonymous reports may make it more difficult for them to gather more information from the reporter, which may make it more difficult for well-informed action to be taken to address the issue,” the company’s CEO explains.
While this is a compromise he’s willing to make, taking steps that would effectively equal censorship is not something he’s willing to do.
Cloudflare, which is a company that operates a global network that improves the performance of websites and protects them from DDoS attacks and other security threats, offers a free tier and several paid plans to customers. The company does not store the “definitive copy” of websites, so these sites wouldn’t even go offline even if Cloudflare decided to cut them off.
“Cloudflare is more akin to a network than a hosting provider. I’d be deeply troubled if my ISP started restricting what types of content I can access. As a network, we don’t think it’s appropriate for Cloudflare to be making those restrictions either,” Prince said.
All it boils down to is that political beliefs and biases of companies should not determine what can and cannot be online.