Gun violence, racial violence, and domestic terrorism are not topics that people tend to directly connect to technology decisions and strategy. But at Sister District, we view our technical infrastructure, digital security, and communications strategy as part of the same ecosystem. That’s why we won’t work with companies that are also willing to do business with individuals and organizations that are actively working against our ideals and our mission, such as the alt-right.
This week, Cloudflare, a CDN (content delivery network), stopped providing services to 8chan, a “free speech” message board made infamous as a platform for the alt-right. The shooter in the El Paso massacre on Saturday allegedly published a “manifesto” on 8chan. At Sister District, Cloudflare’s decision to stop providing services to 8chan was met with a somewhat muted relief.
A CDN helps to deliver digital content to users faster by serving content through a network of servers located in many places geographically. When selecting our own CDN provider, we determined that Cloudflare was not a company we were willing to partner with; precisely because they were willing to do business with sites like 8chan.
Recently, at Netroots Nation in Philadelphia, we led a digital security training session that helped other progressive leaders understand the process of doing due diligence on every technology service provider that supports an organization.
There are countless websites that enable alt-right discussion, planning, and sharing manifestos of hate and violence that have inspired real world violence and death. These sites provide a platform to discuss and create content that is then shared across the internet. And currently, they largely operate outside of existing regulation and law enforcement policies.
One of the many reasons we are proud to work at the state legislature level is that when federal regulators are unable – or unwilling – to respond to national crises, voters look to state legislatures to enact appropriate policy. We work in areas that have suffered due to mass gun violence, such as Virginia Beach. Many of the Republican incumbents we work against have accepted money from the NRA, or refused to work on legislation that could address gun violence.
When we decline to do business with organizations that are permissive of violence and bigotry, we’re not just protecting our digital infrastructure from attack – we’re also standing up for the communities we work in.