Kiwi Farms, a notorious message board known for doxxing, threats and hate speech, is back online months after the initial success of a well-publicized campaign to remove it from the internet.
The protests forced Cloudflare, a major content delivery and DDoS mitigation company, to stop serving the site. After a series of jumps between providers, including Russia’s DDoS-Guard, the embattled message board is once again accessible thanks to two companies known to serve far-right sites: VanwaTech and Epik.
Dubbed “the largest stalker community on the web”, Kiwi Farms is notorious for hosting threads in which users can share private information about individuals and engage in targeted harassment. Since the site launched in 2013, three suicides have been linked to harassment on the site. Founder Joshua “Null” Moon has denied in multiple posts on the site that Kiwi Farms was responsible for anyone’s death.
Now, it’s got help from the same people who host websites owned by some of the far right’s most notorious figures.
Whois records show that Epik provides domain name services, allowing Internet users to easily access the site through their web browsers. In layman’s terms, VanwaTech hosts the KiwiFarm hate party, while Epik provides directions to get there.
Epik is a controversial domain name provider and web host whose clients include social media sites like Parler and Gab, as well as far-right forum TheDonald. Epik founder and chairman Rob Monster is known for his absolutist stance on free speech. VanwaTech’s young founder, Nick Lim, previously founded BitMitigate, a website security company acquired by Epik.
Earlier this month, the Daily Dot reported that Epik is currently unable to repay customers, and new CEO Brian Royce said he was working to fix the problem.
Royce told the Daily Dot that he wanted to do things differently than previous leadership, but made clear in the press release announcing his appointment as chief executive that the value of free speech would continue.
“Epik will continue to support free speech,” reads the release. “It’s extremely important to me to see the core values of liberty, truth, and liberty reflected in everything we do at Epik.”
Epik has provided domain name services to Kiwi Farms since September, but has yet to face the same pressure that fell on Cloudflare. Few articles mention companies offering DNS. While the campaign against Kiwi Farms, led by Twitch streamer Clara “Keffals” Sorrenti, declared victory, Kiwi Farms users gleefully tweeted “We’re Back” within a month of being removed by Cloudflare.
But Epik’s public-facing absolutist stance on free speech doesn’t mean the company hasn’t wavered in the face of pressure. Last year, Epik and BitMitigate briefly offered safe haven to a high-profile abortion bounty hunter site before cutting ties after facing public pressure. Epik also removed the domain name of a website that harassed and harassed dozens of people after then-CEO Monster was heckled in a video conference following the company’s massive data breach.
“It’s crazy that Rob is video chatting,” Royce said of the incident via text message. “How stupid and confusing.”
Asked whether Epik planned to continue providing DNS services to Kiwi Farms, or ditch it, as Monster had previously done with the human flesh search site, Royce initially demurred and denied knowledge of the scandals. Royce defended the ongoing business relationship on free speech grounds after the Daily Dot shared a report on the subject and asked how things were different at Kiwi Farms.
“I don’t know the difference because I’ve never been to either site and don’t care,” Royce wrote via text message. “It’s not about what they stand for, it’s about the fact that they have the right to free speech.”
Responding to a question about Epik’s previous willingness to take action on the offending site, Royce dismissed direct responsibility. He said Kiwi Farms’ content moderation team should respond to user behavior on the forum. But Royce is not entirely uncompromising.
“We have global policies that apply to all clients,” Royce said. “If there is evidence of a terrorist threat or an actual crime such as stalking, then we notify the website owner and ask them to fix the problem. If they don’t, we can take the service down.”
Whether Kiwi Farms can continue to be accessible on the internet through Epik’s DNS service appears to be a question of whether there is sufficiently clear evidence that users have crossed some legal line and Kiwi Farms’ content moderation team is reluctant to take action. Given the site’s track record, it may only be a matter of time.
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*First published: November 29, 2022, 9:30AM CST
Steven Monacelli is an investigative reporter in Dallas, Texas. His reporting has been published in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, Gizmodo, The Texas Observer, Dallas Weekly, and more.