As tech companies are increasingly being held responsible for hate speech on their platforms, they are also facing opposing concerns about their role in deciding the bounds of free speech. This issue came to the front last week when the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer was repeatedly dropped by numerous DNS and hosting services that refused to accept it as a customer, often citing their terms of service. Cloudflare, a service that protects websites from attacks, also dropped the Daily Stormer after Daily Stormer supporters claimed that Cloudflare was endorsing their cause.
In explaining his actions, Cloudflare's CEO expressed reservations, noting that because Cloudflare is one of the only services of its kind, and the Daily Stormer relies on Cloudflare to stay up in spite of frequent cyberattacks, dropping it essentially knocks it off the internet. In his words, “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.” As the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, the issue is not whether these websites are repugnant, but whether tech companies should effectively be deciding whose speech is allowed on the internet, as in the future these measures could be used against more mainstream movements. Tech companies are left to navigate these competing pressures from free speech groups, governments, and the public without an easy path forward.