Dawn broke on August 5th, casting its first light upon London, Ontario, as an unsettling incident unfolded. In this urban landscape, Clara Sorrenti found herself facing the chilling muzzle of an assault rifle.
Renowned as a trans rights activist and a vibrant presence on Twitch, she engages with her audience through the pseudonym “Keffals,” offering incisive political commentary. In the hours preceding this unnerving encounter, an imposter, bearing malintent, had dispatched an email to local city councillors. This deceitful missive alleged that Sorrenti, the very same individual, had perpetrated matricide and was poised to storm City Hall, raining gunfire upon every cisgender individual in her path. The subsequent events proved harrowing for Sorrenti. Reflecting upon the ordeal, she shared her emotional turmoil in a poignant YouTube video, recounting the dread she felt as the law enforcement officials roused her from sleep, with the pointed barrel of the assault rifle intensifying her fear. “In that paralyzing moment,” she recounted, “the thought of my demise loomed large. The aftermath has left me grappling with trauma.”
Sorrenti’s plight stands as the freshest addition to a cruel and relentless harassment crusade spearheaded by Kiwi Farms, an online enclave notorious for orchestrating a range of abhorrent activities including stalking, swatting, harassment, doxing, and intimidation. This grim litany of victims spans individuals targeted by the Gamergate movement to prominent figures like far-right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Of particular concern is the group’s proclivity for singling out transgender and neurodivergent individuals. Regrettably, the site’s influence has been irreversibly linked to the tragic suicides of at least three individuals who were subjected to sustained, vicious harassment campaigns. The tactics employed by the forum’s denizens are unrelenting and exhaustive in their cruelty.
For an entire decade, Kiwi Farms has operated with seemingly unchecked impunity. However, the current trajectory suggests that this era of impunity may be drawing to a close.
Following the distressing incident of swatting that Sorrenti endured, she embarked on a proactive mission under the banner “Drop Kiwi Farms.” The goal was to cut off the forum’s connection to crucial digital service providers. Her efforts zeroed in on the forum’s web security facilitator, Cloudflare, in particular. While Kiwi Farms had previously existed on the periphery, this campaign thrust it into the forefront of public consciousness. Sorrenti spearheaded this movement with a multitude of interviews, a vigorous Twitter campaign, and the rallying of supporters who united to exert pressure on Cloudflare.
As August 31 arrived, Cloudflare’s CEO, Matthew Prince, issued a response that could be seen as a measured reply to the ongoing campaign. In a blog post addressing the company’s abuse policies, Prince alluded to the prevailing situation. Although the post refrained from explicitly naming Kiwi Farms or Sorrenti, Prince emphasized the potential far-reaching consequences of broad-scale takedowns, stressing the impact such actions could exert on online content accessibility.
As the pages of time flipped to August 31, a response came forth from Cloudflare’s CEO, Matthew Prince, which could be perceived as an indirect rejoinder to the ongoing campaign. In a carefully composed blog post centered around the company’s abuse policies, Prince offered insights without explicitly mentioning Kiwi Farms or Sorrenti. His stance was firmly grounded in the analogy that, just as a telephone company doesn’t terminate your line for disseminating reprehensible, racist, or bigoted content, they have garnered consensus through consultations with politicians, policymakers, and experts that shutting down security services due to content they find repugnant is an ill-advised policy.
Cloudflare has historically displayed reticence when it comes to dropping even neo-Nazi websites like The Daily Stormer, steadfastly maintaining a stance of neutrality in the face of criticism. The company’s stance shifted in 2017, following the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Cloudflare took action against the extremist platform. Another shift occurred in 2019, prompted by the El Paso, Texas shootings, leading to the removal of 8chan, a site associated with the shooter. It’s noteworthy, however, that such responses were elicited only after multiple instances of violence, as Prince noted. Members of 8chan were also implicated in the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attacks.
This historical context provides a backdrop for understanding Prince’s response to Kiwi Farms, elucidating the gravity of his subsequent reversal. The relentless harassment perpetuated by Kiwi Farms continued its escalation, even in the aftermath of Sorrenti’s swatting incident. By August 14, Sorrenti and her fiancé had been compelled to relocate to a local hotel. Disturbingly, users of the forum invested hours in cross-referencing a photograph of the bedsheets in Sorrenti’s hotel room, which she had shared online, ultimately leading to the discovery of her whereabouts. This invasive behavior manifested further as they orchestrated the delivery of pizzas to her room, employing her deadname—a threatening gesture that reverberated in the real world. Sorrenti detailed this unsettling ordeal in a separate YouTube video, stressing the looming peril of their knowledge about her physical location and their willingness to act upon it. Subsequent events involved the compromise of her UberEats account, resulting in numerous unauthorized food deliveries, coupled with the receipt of menacing voicemails aimed at her and her family.
In a bid to escape this distress, Sorrenti sought refuge in Belfast, Northern Ireland. However, members of Kiwi Farms managed to trace her once again, with one individual even posting a message right outside her temporary residence, featuring the date and a pointed reference to Kiwi Farms.
Then, on September 3, Cloudflare pivoted its stance. Prince declared that the company had taken an extraordinary and precarious decision—to block Kiwi Farms. This reversal marked a significant departure for Cloudflare, a role that its status as an internet infrastructure provider made particularly risky and uncomfortable.
While the company asserted that it didn’t directly block Kiwi Farms due to Sorrenti’s campaign, the prevailing atmosphere had triggered an escalation in user aggression. Additionally, the company proactively engaged with law enforcement agencies to navigate the unfolding situation.
“The rhetoric propagated on the Kiwi Farms platform and the specific, targeted threats have surged over the past 48 hours, reaching a juncture where we perceive an unprecedented emergency and an immediate peril to human life—a level of threat unlike any we’ve encountered previously from Kiwi Farms or any other client,” Prince elucidated, outlining Cloudflare’s rationale behind its decision to eventually disassociate from the forum. “However,” he cautioned, “we acknowledge the potential for our actions to inadvertently exacerbate this emergency. The individuals who have exploited the platform to escalate terrorization may feel further alienated and antagonized, potentially inciting more aggressive actions. There is a tangible risk that our actions today may inadvertently escalate the prevailing emergency.”
While Cloudflare declined to provide responses to specific inquiries from WIRED, a spokesperson reiterated fragments of the statement disseminated earlier. “To be unequivocal, it’s not a viable or sustainable solution for an infrastructure provider to resort to such measures. We maintain that a comprehensive legal framework within society is essential to ensure the protection of those subjected to online threats of violence,” emphasized spokesperson Jessie Foster when contacted by WIRED.
With Cloudflare severing ties, Kiwi Farms faced a frantic scramble to secure the web infrastructure services required to maintain its online presence. Notably, both the security service hCaptcha and Russian host DDoS-Guard rebuffed the extremist forum’s overtures. Founder of Kiwi Farms, Josh Moon, conceded that sustaining consistent online presence might prove increasingly untenable. NBC News’ Ben Collins reported Moon’s sentiment, affirming that a scenario where Kiwi Farms is allowed to operate seems implausible. The forum’s traces even disappeared from the archives of the Internet Archive. For now, it appears that the forum has found a haven in VanwaTech, a service provider that previously accommodated the likes of Daily Stormer and 8kun (formerly 8chan) following their respective ejections from Cloudflare.
Sorrenti acknowledged the likelihood that Kiwi Farms may never entirely vanish from the digital landscape, akin to the persistence observed in platforms like 8chan and Daily Stormer. Yet, she underscored the significance of a site’s inability to secure fundamental web services from content delivery networks and web security entities. She noted that, even if a site clings to a semblance of existence, the loss of these foundational services renders them “utterly powerless,” regardless of the lengths they might go to in order to artificially prolong their tenure. As to whether Kiwi Farms has been entirely eradicated, Sorrenti remarked, “Such considerations are irrelevant in light of the fact that our campaign’s objectives have not only been accomplished but have surpassed our most optimistic projections.” Kiwi Farms’ visibility across the web has dwindled to a mere shadow.
“We’ve emerged victorious,” Sorrenti declared resolutely. “Kiwi Farms is no more.”