The great debate: Is Cloudflare a free-speech hero, or a hate speech villain?

Cloudflare is a swiftly expanding tech giant you’ve never heard of, but it’s no stranger to controversy.


February 28, 2019

Cloudflare, a little-known content delivery network and cloud security provider, has been lauded as an internet hero in many circles. 

The San Francisco-based company helps over 12m websites — ranging from Zendesk to even the Library of Congress — negotiate their place on the Wild Wild Web, while also shielding them from attacks with its free security and encryption products.

But, on the flip, it has been no stranger to controversy. Cloudflare has been shamed for its absolutist free-speech policies… oh, and the fact that it provides optimization and security to a list of 7 terrorist organizations.

Herein lies the debate

The problem is, nobody knows exactly how to categorize the company. Is it on the front lines with other internet service providers? Then, many argue, it has a duty to let all content flow freely. 

Or, is it considered a content host (like YouTube and Facebook)? Then, people argue, the company needs to take responsibility — something its highly philosophical CEO, Matthew Prince, disagrees with.

“If you do believe — as we do — that the internet’s edge is controlled by about 10 companies, then imposing the values of their leadership on what the internet looks like… [is] an incredibly risky thing to be doing,” he said.

The company is growing fast 

In Q4, Cloudflare expanded its global footprint with 10 new data centers (adding to the 165 it already had), its first app, and a new office in Munich. Plus, the company’s also rumored to be prepping for a $3.5B IPO.

Given its growing market hold, it’s clear things are only going to get more complicated for outspoken Cloudflare — which will surely continue to be a powerful guinea pig in the debate over responsibility in tech.

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