When Does “Content Moderation" Become Censorship? Policing the Web After Charlottesville

A Discussion with Matthew Prince, Co-Founder and CEO of Cloudflare

In the wake of the deadly riots in Charlottesville, VA in August, neo-Nazi websites were dumped by a series of technology providers in quick succession. Perhaps most publicly, content-delivery network and security provider Cloudflare terminated The Daily Stormer’s service at the behest of its CEO, Matthew Prince, who, in a subsequent blog post, identified serious questions around the future of online free speech and censorship that his actions raised. Meanwhile, many internet companies, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, find themselves under increased scrutiny over their handling of questionable or controversial content on their platforms.

In an effort to combat the spread of hate speech on their platforms, tech companies have ramped up efforts to suspend accounts and remove posts as quickly as possible. Governments are also ramping up pressure on tech companies. Germany has passed the NetzDG law, which requires companies to take down “obviously illegal” content within twenty-four hours. Recently, the U.K. called on companies to remove extremist content within two hours. Both companies and governments have struggled to find a solution that addresses the proliferation of hateful and violent content without overstepping their bounds and risking being called out for censorship. 

How do companies strike this balance? What responsibilities do the organizations that run the infrastructure of the internet have to prevent it from being misused by criminals, hate groups, and hostile governments? What are the implications if private companies choose who can be heard online? Will repressive governments require them to censor the global internet? And what happens when the desire for a free and open internet collides with efforts to prevent the growth of hate groups and violence? 

Join Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince in conversation with Kevin Bankston, director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, about the future of online speech and the question of when “content moderation” becomes censorship? The conversation will be followed by Q&A from the audience. 

Breakfast will be served. 

This event will be livestreamed on this page. Follow the conversation online with #PolicingWeb and @OTI


Matthew Prince@eastdakota 
Co-founder and CEO, Cloudflare 

Kevin Bankston@KevinBankston 
Director, New America’s Open Technology Institute