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Cloudflare Bans Sex Worker Platform, Switter. First Notable Ban Since Neo Nazis
79 points by Lola_H 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments
A platform called Switter took off 3 weeks ago in response to the FOSTA/SESTA bill which lead to the shutdown of sites/accounts and silencing of accounts on like Craigslist, Twitter, Reddit, Skype and Gmail. With 47,000 members Cloudflare banned the site from their services Wednesday evening without notice.

The last documented time Cloudflare terminated services was when they terminated the account of a white supremacist website last year.

The network, Switter, was started by a company in Australia and runs on the open-source social platform Mastodon at an Austrian domain.

"Cloudflare has now effectively kicked two groups offline: Neo-Nazis and Sex Workers. There is no comparison. One used their site to call for death, the other used theirs to stay alive"


Cloudflare are still yet to comment on the matter.

I hate this. SESTA is a poorly drafted law. While it's responding to a real, serious problem — sex trafficking of minors online — it's lack of specificity means it will be interpreted extremely broadly and lead to dangerous precedents. We lobbied against it. I personally spent a lot of time in congressional offices warning about exactly this outcome. And, just yesterday, I spent much of my day with our General Counsel pleading about the dangers of a slippery slope. But, the law is the law, and we need to follow the law.

Regulating content online is a terrible role for deep infrastructure companies like Cloudflare to play. And it's far from the end. The same thing is coming for ISPs, registrars, and DNS providers over the days ahead. Ideally, Congress needs to clarify which services are "interactive computer services" under SESTA and which are not. Until then, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Craigslist, Cloudflare, GoDaddy, AWS, Microsoft, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Level(3), and many others will err on the side of caution — and silently sites will disappear from the Internet.

If you're concerned, and live in the United States, please call your congress person and let them know that deep infrastructure companies aren't the right places to regulate what content can and cannot be online.

I wrote about their previous ban last year and what it meant in terms of censorship:


A lot of people will simply say, "Well go use another provider. It's their business and they can run it as they want," but in the case with the Daily Stormer, they were banned from many providers/platforms and even all the major domain registratars.

When so few companies hold such a large market share, they can and do censor content. In the US, we don't allow businesses to discriminate on the bases of race or sex, as far as which customers they're willing to accept. Speech isn't covered, but should it be? Can a Staples refuse to copy a flyer if it has content they don't agree with (so long as the content isn't illegal?)

Self host, direct towards an IP Address.

An IP address issued by whom, exactly? Your ISP? A cloud provider? ICANN?

There are ways to evade this law, like the .bit TLD, but even that would require constantly hopping between IPs and providers. There is no way that I can see to deploy and maintain a stable service in this legal environment.

Cloudflare operates under US law and most likely is concerned about action by the US Department of Justice against them in the event they continued to provide services to Switter.

But they are in international markets and this particular customer was in Australia where sex work is legal.

Doesn’t matter. Cloudflare is a US corporation operating under US law (as well as the laws of other countries they have offices in).

I wonder why they don't have affiliates elsewhere. Not just for the sale of sex between consenting adults, but other, ethical yet banned-in-some-parts-of-the-world things: online gambling, marijuana, etc.

In most cases, legal trickery like this doesn't actually fly with the courts. The US doesn't care if the datacenter the data they want is in is technically owned by "Microsoft Ireland". Because Microsoft Ireland is controlled by Microsoft, so they can sue the latter to compel action from the former.

This is one of the many downsides of multinational corporations, and I suspect we're going to see a new market for more localized replacements for a lot of these corporations' services abroad.

How is it possible that it works for taxes[0], but not in this case?

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Irish_arrangement

Isn't it sick that courts are happy to allow such legal trickery when it comes to tax avoidance, but not when it comes to avoiding other laws some people don't like?

How would you structure that? PoP-operating companies for each country/region, owning the infrastructure, and CDN companies that rent capacity from the infrastructure-companies and combine it into international packages? And of course you can't have a shared entity owning them or anything else that a court could convincingly find to be really one entity, which makes it kind of impractical to get that started.

Actually independently formed companies would of course help, but they'll have a strong motivation to grow themselves instead of working together with competitors.

I guess the technocracy promotes free speech when it suits them & shuts it down when they fear it.

FFS. Please, please actually think about what you're saying and about the implications it carries if you game theory it out a bit, that's absolutely critical when dealing with proposed solutions for wider issues of society. "The technocracy" is not in fact responsible for creating law, at least not yet. They are subjects to the law, and while of course they have an input both in the way any other group does and extra in the way more resources and education can enhance that, they're not even a dominant player amongst political powers. They cannot overrule law, nor should they be expected to, and really is that what you, amorphid, would actually want to see? Responsibility is tied to power, if you want them to be responsible then you're necessarily suggesting they have the power too. And that takes us straight to a world where corporations really are governing powers also, as in they can legitimately wield physical force against opponents.

If this is due to FOSTA/SESTA, then regardless of Cloudflare's personal views they need to follow it. The fault lies somewhat in Congress but ultimately in the American People for repeatedly failing to appropriately carry out our duties in maintaining our democracy. If you argue that the people simply aren't up for that at all, then you're arguing democracy should be dumped or at least toned down in a further hybridization, and that gets into very, very deep waters. There is no contradiction whatsoever between Cloudflare and other tech companies promoting/lobbying heavily for Free Speech protections, which again are protections against government action, while still acceding to the supremacy of government if it passes laws to the contrary and those laws are still in force (during a legal challenge with no injunction for example, or following a failed legal challenge).

There's nothing wrong in parallel with all this either in all of us working to try to eliminate centralized pressure points and decentralized malicious actor capabilities so on as well, far from it. But that doesn't mean you are justified in your accusations against some specific actor under the control of a jurisdiction that acts contrary to our preferences.

>"The technocracy" is not in fact responsible for creating law, at least not yet.

They lobbied specifically for this compromise, because they don't give a shit. These companies are begging for Congress to come in and give them some sweet regulatory capture: you didn't see Zuckerberg overly concerned, for example, he practically asked for regulation. They have the resources to not sweat much of the overly broad chilling effect, especially the ex post facto aspect of this legislation. Small companies and startups that have the potential to topple these players don't have such leisure.

Personally, beyond Rob Portman and the GOP, I blame the people who are getting hysterical over fake news and "nazis", who claim that Facebook et al are "destroying democracy". They have set the tone and made it much easier for this to happen, and they don't give a shit either because there's a fundamental disconnect due to their partisan bickering.

No one wants to put their money where their mouth is and challenge these terrible statutes, despite the fact that Justice did not need them to take down Backpage. The entire legislative package, and the justification behind it (child trafficking), is a sham. The real purpose was to force companies to do exactly what Cloudflare has done today.

It’s not an enjoyable experience to be pursued by a nation state with limitless resources.

They also suspended service to a BitTorrent website without notice:


entirely unrelated, and the website owner was provided an explanation.

Of course it's related.

Where did you see that the website owner was provided an explanation?

Again -- entirely unrelated. In the reply that was sent to the website owner. They received an explanation.

I'm not going to push this unrelated thing any further than to point out we're talking about two websites who had service suspended on the same day by the same company.

Do you have a source for the explanation?

Check out my profile. I work at the company on the team in question. They are utterly unrelated.

I see what you mean. You may have suspended the account for entirely unrelated reasons and may be tracking the issues separately internally. But under the broader banner of Cloudflare censorship being discussed here, the two are related.

Interestingly, the site is based on Mastadon mean that it is, or at least has the potential to be, federated. If one server hosting the data is blocked or goes down, another federated server will still hold the data. So, in a way, they're avoiding a need for something like Cloudflare.

Mastodon is federated in the sense that users can be on different servers and interact, and yes, the data from one server ends up incidentally being cached on others, but those users still only exist on the server they are on.

If switter.at is shutdown, switter.at users cannot login or post, and people most likely cannot see switter.at posts or follow switter.at accounts.

And there's still massive benefit to a Mastodon instance of being able to serve it's content over a CDN for bandwidth cost concerns.


Anything when motivated by fear.

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