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What is Kiwi Farms and why was the website blocked?

An online forum which compiles information in order to harass people for entertainment was blocked after creating “the potential risk for human life.”

Extremist-friendly online forum for stalkers blocked
Stringer .REUTERS

Cloudflare, in an about face, has blocked access to an extremist-friendly online forum for which it provides security services. Kiwi Farms is known for discussing and compiling information about people it deems eccentric and then doxing them, their family and friends for the purpose of starting harassment campaigns.

The move came after the company found targeted threats escalating to a point where “there is an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life unlike we have previously seen.” Just days earlier the company had put out a statement, while not mentioning Kiwi Farms, indicating that it would not block the forum despite a campaign started by a current victim pressuring Cloudflare to do so.

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Kiwi Farms a “breeding ground for countless harassment campaigns”

Launched in 2013 by Josh “Null” Moon as a forum to troll and harass a webcomic artist, Kiwi Farms grew into what New York Magazine dubbed “the web’s biggest community of stalkers” by 2016. The prime targets for users of the platform are individuals its members call “lolcows”, people who could be “milked” for entertainment. Generally focusing on people who are members of the LGBTQ community. The Anti-Defamation League considers the forum a “breeding ground for countless harassment campaigns.

Members compile information on targets, follow their activities and then dox them, the act of maliciously publishing private information. They also hack victims online accounts like Uber which was the case for one of the forums current targets, Canadian transgender activist and Twitch broadcaster Clara “Keffal” Sorrenti. She recently had hundreds of dollars’ worth of food sent to her as part of ongoing harassment she has been receiving.

Kiwi Farms harassment campaigns can be life threatening

The harassment campaigns are designed to isolate targets or get them fired from their jobs by spreading false rumors that they are criminals or pedophiles. These campaigns have driven some to commit suicide, but other tactics have put victims in life-threatening situations.

Members of Kiwi Farms will “swat” their victims whereby a false emergency tip is sent to police saying the target is about to commit a violent crime. The intention is that law enforcement will react by raiding the victims home and potentially harm the individual.

This happened to Keffal when police received calls claiming she was going to commit a mass shooting at city hall in her hometown of London, Ontario. Officers promptly showed up at her house with assault rifles at the ready and arrested her at gunpoint. They later released her but that began a weekslong harassment campaign that forced her to flee to Europe. Her stalkers found her there though and swatted her twice in Ireland.

The ordeal has been “a nightmare” in Keffal’s words. She told NBC “I constantly have this lingering thought in the back of my head, ‘What are they up to? Are they planning something? Is there going to be another escalation?”

Kiwi Farms down but not necessarily gone

News of Cloudflare blocking Kiwi Farms was celebrated by Keffal, saying in a statement “This is a historical moment where thousands of people have stood up and taken a stance against online harassment and hate.” Adding “This deals a big blow to Kiwi Farms and their community, one they may never recover from. But that doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels.”

Without Cloudflare’s security services, the forum will be open to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks where it could be flooded with fake internet traffic, rendering it unusable. However, Kiwi Farms’ website is hosted on servers in a Las Vegas datacenter owned by Fiberhub. Keffal has called for pressure to be applied on the IT company should the forum become operational again.