Internet infrastructure company Cloudflare, known for protecting websites against attacks aimed at knocking them offline, is shielding a website linked to a known neo-Nazi terror group connected to several murders, Motherboard has learned.
San Francisco-based Cloudflare came under renewed criticism over the weekend when it originally refused to boot 8chan as a client after three mass shooters posted their manifestos to the anonymous message board in less than six months. The company eventually yielded to public pressure and dropped the controversial website.
Neo-Nazi sites are the frequent target of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that send so much traffic to a website that it crashes. With Cloudflare's services, sites can stay online and deflect those types of virtual assaults.
The latest site found to be protected by the Silicon Valley giant is linked to Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi terrorist organization connected to racially motivated killings in the U.S. The website provides (in audiobook and PDF formats) a white supremacist handbook on an armed insurgency against society popular among extremists. The book advocates for the assassination of politicians, bombings, and general guerilla war against the state. The Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies, has previously pointed to the book as a serious contributor to the radiclalization of white nationalists and as a general guide for neo-Nazi terrorism.
A previous and similarly-named version of the site used Cloudflare services, but went offline in the spring. Before it went down, Cloudflare told Motherboard it wouldn’t comment on its users.
Read More: Cloudflare Boots 8chan as a Customer
In the past, the Anti-Defamation League has linked the same sites to the Atomwaffen Division, which is based in the U.S. and Canada. Postings on the new Cloudflare-protected site exactly mirrors previous content from past iterations.
The "Contact" section claims the site, “is not a recruitment platform for the Atomwaffen Division nor any other commonly associated Organization people attribute to this website.” and advises that the site’s administrators will not respond to any media requests.
“We most certainly will not accept interviews or answer questions asked by journalists and any other media outlet. Don't bother asking, you will not get a response,” it said. Motherboard reached out to the site administrators but has not received a response.
Motherboard has identified other violent neo-Nazi sites currently protected by Cloudflare but will not identify them to avoid amplification.
Spokespeople for Cloudflare have not yet responded to Motherboard's request for comment.
The new domain for the Atomwaffen Division-linked site was purchased on April 13 and was registered through Toronto internet company Tucows, which also provided registrar service to 8chan before dropping it after its association with the mass shooter in El Paso.
The re-emergence of the Atomwaffen Division-linked site points to what some experts have called a “whack-a-mole” effect—if you take one site down, another will come back in its place. When a similar website was taken down by its host for violating its terms of service, far-right expert Ryan Scrivens told Motherboard in February that when extreme right sites are shut down, the impact is often short-lived.
“It minimizes their ability to connect and communicate with like-minded individuals from around the globe,” Scrivens told Motherboard. “In the long term, however, de-platforming hate sites is like playing a game of whack-a-mole: when one site gets taken down, an offshoot of that site or a new site will appear soon after. Aware of this, right-wing extremists will simply wait for the next platform to emerge.”