• ProPublica Attacks First Amendment, Cloudflare Edition

    May 8, 2017

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America



    You’re almost certainly interacting with Cloudflare right now. Feel OK?

    Cloudflare is a web services company that, among other things, protects sites against various malicious attacks and hacks. They don’t “host” data in most cases, but work as a kind of middleman between you and the server out there somewhere on the web that has the actual data. Cloudflare processes more web traffic than Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Instagram, and Wikipedia combined, because it handles data for most of those places at the same time. On average, you have interacted with a Cloudflare service 500 times today. This blog uses Cloudflare, as does the FBI, OKCupid and The Daily Stormer.

    You may not be as familiar with The Daily Stormer, but it is a nasty white supremacist site. They feature all sorts of hate, with a particular focus on anti-Semitism. Real garbage. But garbage fully protected under America’s long tradition of free speech (and yes, I understand the legal side of the First Amendment applies to government and not private businesses, but the broader concept of free speech underlies every democracy and has been the cornerstone of our inalienable rights in America. America at its best has always sought ways to broaden speech and access to ideas, not game ways to block them.)


    Yet in another example of assault on free speech from the left, investigative journalists ProPublica are now “outing” Cloudflare for providing business services to The Daily Stormer.

    ProPublica writes:

    The operations of such extreme sites [The Daily Stormer] are made possible, in part, by an otherwise very mainstream internet company — Cloudflare. The widespread use of Cloudflare’s services by racist groups is not an accident. Cloudflare has said it is not in the business of censoring websites and will not deny its services to even the most offensive purveyors of hate.

    The wording, implying Cloudflare has some special affinity for racist groups, is noted.


    Though it only cites three specific cases, ProPublica also makes much out of claims that Cloudflare, in accordance with its policies, forwarded content-related complaints about The Daily Stormer it received to the site itself. Apparently persons offended by Stormer’s speech wrote to Cloudflare demanding censorship. The complaintants felt their voluntary, public demand, to include their real names and contact information, demanding censorship, should itself be kept top secret from those they wished to censor.

    The idea is that (three) people offended by The Daily Stormer sought to shut the site down by threatening the “printer,” Cloudflare, who conveys information in a content neutral fashion. ProPublica is in favor of this.

    Of course shutting down printing presses to prevent the spread of ideas is old-school fascism. Sad to see a group like ProPublica, which thrives under the broader ideals of unfettered speech, trying to do away with such protections for others.

    I also guess as journalists ProPublica are unfamiliar with the trial of Peter Zenger, where, in pre-revolutionary America the government tried to punish a printer Peter Zenger for printing something offensive someone else wrote. Defended by Alexander Hamilton, Zenger was found not guilty. The trial is seen as the beginnings of what became our mighty First Amendment, and a significant victory for free speech. It established the precedent that you can’t shut down a means of conveyance of speech as a backdoor way to censor speech.



    Now, c’mon, I get it.

    Actually, ProPublica is familiar with the Zenger trial, citing its precedents on libel in a November 2016 article regarding fears that then President-Elect Trump might threaten parts of the First Amendment.

    ProPublica are smart people, and they understand the Zenger case and they understand the root value of free speech in America. But they are trying to be clever, talking fast to the rubes on the left who suddenly “woke” to allow their prejudices to be manipulated. It’s fundraising time, and groups like ProPublica know the money right now is to be made not in content-free defense of free speech, but in being seen as part of The Resistance.

    They know in the Age of Trump no progressive is going to stand up for the rights of unpopular speakers on the right, even though real progressives know that’s the pure thing to do in our democracy and always has been. Nope, the good guys are going to look down at their shoes and mumble mumble when these tough issues arise, say something about “means to an end” and the “greater good” and allow once stalwart defenders of liberty like ProPublica to get away with peddling hate in the guise of opposing it.

    Just know not everyone is fooled, and some of us are making notes. And that every call for censorship risks someone returning the favor.



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    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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  • Recent Comments

    • RICH BAUER said...

      1

      Big Brother knows best.

      05/8/17 9:34 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      2

      Has anyone actually visited the Daily Stormer website? These guys are just making a buck off the losers in society that don’t want to take responsibility for their pathetic lives.

      05/8/17 9:40 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      3

      Where does it end?

      There is a viral Youtube video today of some past-her-prime loser in line at a Reston, Virginia Trader Joe’s getting real angry that she has to stand next to a Muslim. Instead of suppressing YouTube for exposing US to her hate speech- which no doubt she got from the Daily Stormer talking points- we should be thankful as It is educational. Most people are oblivious to the hatred that walks among US.

      05/8/17 9:49 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      4

      Angry white woman: I am very normal.

      Exactly.

      05/8/17 9:58 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      5

      Get the popcorn ready.

      05/8/17 9:58 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      6

      All these angry, poor white people are not really mad that a black “Muslim” was the president of the United States. They are really pissed this black dude got richer than they are. Hell, he just signed a $65 million book deal as a payoff and more than Hillary for kissing the Wall Street War Party’s balls.

      05/8/17 11:04 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      7

      It will eventually dawn on these angry white people who have been blinded by the Fox propaganda they are being hosed like the blacks and the rest. The Wall Street War Party’s unbridled greed tells us why the richest country in the history of the world has a crumbling infrastructure, a declining middle class and the largest percentage of children living in poverty among developed nations.

      It is not the Muslims at your door that you should fear but the Fox on your TV that will kill you.

      05/8/17 11:11 AM | Comment Link

    • Traven said...

      8

      Great line Rich!

      “It is not the Muslims at your door that you should fear but the Fox on your TV that will kill you.”

      05/8/17 2:51 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      9

      Rich.

      What’s the difference between a black person who hates whites… And a white person who hates blacks????

      Answer…. Not a damn thing…. They are both racists.

      And…. Rich….. I can see why your pitching a fit over this article.

      From your posts, advocating to force people to have injections and vaccines, whether they want them or not.
      For the silencing, of anyone who does not agree with your ‘thinking’…
      For your abject insults and attacks….

      If they start censorship….

      You will be one of the first to be censored.

      You should be, on a hourly basis…. Saying your thanks to the founding fathers, for the protections of the First Amendment.

      M

      05/8/17 5:19 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...

      10

      05/8/17 10:12 PM | Comment Link

    • Traven said...

      11

      Mitch.. Sorry . I have to point out to you that there is a wide gap between:

      “… the difference between a black person who hates whites… And a white person who hates blacks????”

      It’s called POWER! a non white person has many reasons to not like whites because of rampant discrimination shownb by white society. Where as the white person has only the luxury to rely on racial stereotypes and all of society’s biased moras (sp?) to dislike the blacks.

      In the citizen army during the war there was often a distinct “hatred” between the “dogfaces’ (GI’s) and the officer class based on the enforced power difference.

      05/8/17 10:35 PM | Comment Link

    • Mitch said...

      12

      Traven.

      I see your points very clearly…. Same thing we covered in college…

      But….. I still just see ignorance and stupidity.

      I see people clawing their way for any option to attempt to feel Superior.

      Stereotypes are rarely correct.

      M

      05/8/17 10:45 PM | Comment Link

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