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CONTENT DELIVERY SERVICE Cloudflare has responded to requests from investigative journalists, saying that it will always stand up for free speech.
The firm was approached by technology news website The Kernel, which is relaunching today. It has reproduced an email from the website and responded to its concerns.
"At CloudFlare we believe in a free and open web. However, we regularly get questions about controversial content that flows through our network. Yesterday we received the questions below from the about to be relaunched European technology blog, The Kernel," it said in a blog post.
"The questions involve one of Cloudflare's users. We have been consistent in our policy, but thought answering these questions in public presented a good opportunity to show how we think about these issues."
The email asked Cloudflare whether it is aware of what it is hosting and whether it is actively backing a controversial set of webpages.
The user's name has been redacted, but according to The Kernel email its "website has been confirmed as dangerous by the US government". Cloudflare countered that it does not look into each website that it represents.
"I am not aware of any website that the US government has 'confirmed as dangerous'. While the US government does prohibit certain dealings with identified terrorist organizations and certain authoritarian regimes, it is not in the business of labeling websites as dangerous," wrote Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince.
"One of the greatest strengths of the United States is a belief that speech, particularly political speech, is sacred. A website, of course, is nothing but speech. Given that the blogger asking these questions is from the UK, a bit of a misunderstanding of US jurisprudence is to be tolerated, even expected."
Price said that Cloudflare does not host anything, suggesting that the website is confused about its place in the internet.
"The blogger may be confused about the nature of Cloudflare. We are not a hosting provider. Removing this, or any other site, from our network wouldn't remove the content from the Internet: it would simply slow its performance and make it more vulnerable to attack," he added.
"I'm curious if the blogger would ask the same of Google? A quick search shows that Google has about 334,000 pages from the site in question in its cache. Would the blogger suggest that Google should be required not to index this website? Should they need to do so only when ordered by a court, or should they proactively censor the network based on their own biases?"
We have asked The Kernel to commenting on its email and the Cloudflare response. It has posted its response on its new website.
"In the Cloudflare blog post that attempted to rebuff The Kernel's enquiries, Matthew Prince made a series of nonsensical analogies in an attempt to make his company's support for a terrorist group's website seem almost normal," it wrote.
"One comparison made by Prince is that Google caches pages, as does Cloudflare. He considers this justification for not installing safeguards on the content they host (even temporarily). But Google are not paid by any terrorist groups, while it is likely that Cloudflare is."
Price tweeted that his post relates to "advocates for Chechen independence". The Kernel said that the "site belongs to a terrorist group who kill people as a way to advocate for Chechen independence", adding, "Cloudflare maintains that investigating the content posted on the Kavkaz Center would be 'creepy', and thus they avoid doing so."
Price said that if Cloudflare was presented with a court order to block service to a website, it would.
"Cloudflare abides by all applicable laws in the countries in which we operate and we firmly support the due process of law. If we were to receive a valid court order that compelled us to not provide service to a customer then we would comply with that court order.," he explained.
"We have never received a request to terminate the site in question from any law enforcement authority, let alone a valid order from a court." µ
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