The notorious online troll site Kiwi Farms was shut down by the content delivery network Cloudflare over the weekend following a campaign of harassment directed at trans streamer Clara Sorrenti.
On September 3, Cloudflare announced in a statement published on its blog that it had blocked Kiwi Farms because the platform posed an “immediate threat to human life.” Concerns about the infamous hate forum resurfaced after its users reportedly directed a swatting attack at Sorrenti, who is known to fans as Keffals, by sending false threats to local politicians in London, Ontario, under her name. In August, police apprehended Sorrenti at her home, arrested her at gunpoint and detained her for 11 hours.
After Sorrenti was forced to leave Canada and go into hiding for her safety, supporters created the #DropKiwiFarms hashtag and a Change.org petition to have Kiwi Farms pulled off the internet, the latter of which has garnered more than 11,000 signatures. The petition page calls attention to the forum’s history of abuse, one that campaign organizers say has contributed to the suicides of at least three individuals.
“I am asking you all to join us in being a voice for those we have lost at the hands of bullying,” the petition reads. “Something must be done and the time is now.
Although Kiwi Farms is known to direct harassment at anyone its followers deem “mentally ill,” the site has reserved particular hatred for the LGBTQ2S+ community and particularly trans people. Chloe Sagal, a 31-year-old artist and game developer, reportedly took her own life after Kiwi Farms users stalked her online and victimized her for months, severely impacting her mental health.
Cloudflare initially refused to heed the calls to drop Kiwi Farms, saying in an August 31 statement it would be “an abuse of power” to do so.
“Terminating security services for content that our team personally feels is disgusting and immoral would be the popular choice,” the company claimed at the time. “But, in the long term, such choices make it more difficult to protect content that supports oppressed and marginalized voices against attacks.”
In defending its decision, Cloudflare suggested that its role as a service provider is to remain ethically neutral. “Just as the telephone company doesn’t terminate your line if you say awful, racist, bigoted things, we have concluded in consultation with politicians, policymakers, and experts that turning off security services because we think what you publish is despicable is the wrong policy,” it concluded.
But in a more recent update, the company said it was backtracking following what it described as “an unprecedented emergency.”
“This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and, given Cloudflare’s role as an internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous one that we are uncomfortable with. However, the rhetoric on the Kiwi Farms site and specific targeted threats have escalated over the last 48 hours,” CEO Matthew Prince said in the statement. “Feeling attacked, users of the site became even more aggressive.”
Prince added that Kiwi Farms users “may move their sites to other providers and, in doing so, come back online, but we have taken steps to block their content from being accessed through our infrastructure.”
The move was widely celebrated following years of attempts to urge Cloudflare to take action against Kiwi Farms. Sorrenti, who has not publicized her current location due to continued harassment campaigns against her, described Kiwi Farms’ removal in a tweet as a “huge win.”
“Just now they have been able to get the website up, but now it’s on the dark web,” she said. “Less than 1 percent of users will come over now that it’s incredibly inaccessible.”
Despite Kiwi Farms’ new home on the dark web—a network of hidden sites that are searchable only via a specific browser—its ability to operate at all is reportedly in jeopardy. According to the New York Daily News, Kiwi Farms was also dropped by its Russian web provider, and the platform’s founder, Joshua Moon, admitted that he does not currently “have a Plan C.”
“I do not see a situation where the Kiwi Farms is simply allowed to operate,” Moon wrote in an August 5 Telegram post. “It will either become a fractured shell of itself, like 8chan, or jump between hosts and domain names like Daily Stormer.”
This isn’t the first time that one of Moon’s sites was shut down as a result of bad behaviour. In 2019, Cloudflare dropped 8chan—a message board where Moon worked as a lead developer until 2016—following a deadly mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. More than 20 people died as a result of the tragedy, which was reportedly inspired by posts on the notorious white supremacist forum.
“8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate,” Cloudflare said at the time, citing similar links to mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Poway, California.