Cloudflare cites an increase in “specific, targeted threats,” a website security and hosting provider. It announced on Saturday that it had intercepted Kiwi Farms, an online forum understood for hateful content.
In lines on Cloudflare’s blog, the company told Kiwi Farms posed an “immediate threat to human life,” mentioning an increase of “targeted threats” over the past two days.
Concerns about Kiwi Farms developed after transgender YouTuber and Twitch streamer a dangerous harassment campaign had targeted Clara Sorrenti by users from the site. Last month, Kiwi Farms users waged swatting aggression against Sorrenti, otherwise known as the act of delivering false information to police that someone’s scheduling to carrying out a violent crime, resulting in police plaguing the victim’s home.
Sorrenti later moved into hiding and created a #DropKiwifarms campaign that suggested Cloudflare stop serving Kiwi Farms. Users across Twitter shared the hashtag, also with some revealing the harassment they’ve experienced at the hand of Kiwi Farms’ users.
Cloudflare initially resisted calls to drop Kiwi Farms, saying it would be “an abuse of power.” However, in an update posted to its site last week, Cloudflare outlined its policies on abusive content, laying out an argument for holding service without explicitly noting Kiwi Farms. In the post, Cloudflare claims that its termination of sites like The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi message board, and 8Chan, a forum breeds extremist content, led “authoritarian regimes” to request Cloudflare to “terminate security services for human rights organizations.”
“Just as the telephone company doesn’t conclude your line if you say awful, racist, bigoted things, we have consulted with politicians, policymakers, and experts. But, unfortunately, it has turned off security services because we think what you publish is despicable is the wrong policy,” Cloudflare explains.
In its recent update, Cloudflare cites an “unprecedented emergency” justifying the takedown and the service’s change of heart. Notably, Cloudflare didn’t furnish Kiwi Farms’ website hosting but supplied security services that many noticed as instrumental to maintaining the site online.
“Visitors to the Kiwifarms sites that employ any of Cloudflare’s services will notice a Cloudflare block page and a linkage to this post,” Cloudflare explains. “Kiwifarms may transfer their sites to other providers and, in doing so, come back online, but we have taken measures to block their content from being accessed via our infrastructure.” Cloudflare also coordinated with law enforcement to address some of the threats on the site but claims the “process is moving more slowly than the escalating risk.”
In the update, Cloudflare claims it didn’t block the site due to the social media campaign that pleaded with the service to drop Kiwi Farms as a customer. Instead, the post says the decision was based on an uptick in aggressive activity on the platform. Still, Cloudflare says it’s “uncomfortable” with its decision to banish the site and believes its action “may have further heightened the emergency.”
Kiwi Farms first emerged in 2013 and was created by former 8chan administrator Joshua Moon. The site has become known for the harassment and stalking of “lolcows” — the term Kiwi Farms uses to describe its victims (who are often neurodivergent or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community). A report from New York Magazine called Kiwi Farms “the biggest community of stalkers,” with harassment so severe that the site has been blamed for the deaths of several victims.
Kiwi Farms, formerly known as CWCki Forums, is an American Internet forum dedicated to the discussion and harassment of online figures and communities. Their targets are often subject to organized group trolling and stalking, doxxing, and real-life harassment. These actions have linked Kiwi Farms to the suicides of three individuals targeted by users of the site. The Anti-Defamation League explained it as “an extremist-friendly forum.”
Kiwi Farms’ connection to many controversies and harassment drives has caused the venue to be intercepted by Internet service providers or denied service by companies. For example, after the Christ Church mosque shootings, the site was blocked in New Zealand; in 2021, DreamHost stopped providing domain registration services after the suicide of someone they were targeting. The subsequent year, their DDoS protection, delivered by Cloudflare, was canceled after they engaged in doxing and swatting transgender and pro-LGBTQ people. Afterward, they switched to DDoS-Guard, a service provider based in Russia.
Kiwi Farms was established in 2013 by Joshua Moon (understood as “Null” on the website), a former 8chan administrator. It was initially launched as a forum website to troll and harass a webcomic artist who was first detected in 2007 on a 4chan video game board. An Encyclopedia Dramatica page was created about the artist. A dedicated wiki, titled “CWCki,” based on the artist’s initials, was created by people who felt that the Encyclopedia Dramatica entry was not detailed or accurate enough. Kiwi Farms was initially called “CWCki Forums” before “Kiwi Farms” was coined in 2014.
Following the March 2019 Christ church mosque shootings, Kiwi Farms was intercepted by New Zealand Internet service providers after Moon refused a request by New Zealand Police to hand over data on posts correlating to the shooting voluntarily. Following the June 2021 suicide of Near, a software innovator who had been a target of harassment from Kiwi Farms users, DreamHost provided the site owner notice that they would no longer furnish domain registration services. Kiwi Farms subsequently started using a Russian registrar. Shortly after that, it was driven to an American-based domain registrar.
Kiwi Farms used DDoS protection services from Cloudflare, an American hosting and web security service provider. Following Kiwi Farms’ harassment campaign against Canadian streamer, political activist, and transgender activist Clara “Keffals” Sorrenti, a campaign was started to convince Cloudflare to stop providing services to the site. While the company initially defended its decision to keep working with the site, on September 3, 2022, it officially blocked Kiwi Farms from using its services. People attempting to visit the area saw an error message explaining that the decision had been made due to “an imminent and emerging threat to human life.”
Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince articulated that the company acted because “the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and specific, targeted threats escalated over the last 48 hours” at the time of the decision. Other middleware providers, such as captcha, followed suit in halting support for Kiwi Farms. Though the site was briefly offline due to the decision, it was back online “intermittently” the next day with a Russian-based service provider (DDoS-Guard) and a Russian domain registered on July 12, 2022. Assistant Director to the FBI Counterintelligence Division Frank Figliuzzi warned that switching to Russian servers “could easily become an increased threat of domestic terror.”