A neo-Nazi website recently jettisoned from the businesses of some major internet companies has found aid from a Vancouver cybersecurity firm and its 20-year-old founder.
In August, The Daily Stormer was given the boot by Google, GoDaddy and the cybersecurity company Cloudflare, among others, after it mocked the woman killed during protests in Charlottesville, Va. The companies said the website, featuring topics like “Jewish Problem” and “Race War,” had violated their respective terms of service.
Soon after, it struck a deal for cybersecurity with Nick Lim, a Vancouver resident and founder of BitMitigate. The company protects The Daily Stormer from things like distributed denial of service attacks that try to clog bandwidth into crashing the site.
Though he denounced its ethos and called the site “pretty ridiculous,” Lim said he offered to help because the site has the right to free speech.
“I stand by all websites. I’m nondiscriminatory,” he said, adding that he would not defend them if they did anything illegal. “The Daily Stormer is a small, small, small percentage of what we protect and it has nothing to do with them specifically. In fact, I disagree with it. I’m the target of their kinds of attacks, but I don’t really care: it’s free speech.”
Free speech under the U.S. Constitution isn’t protected in private business dealings, such as those between advertisers and television networks; nor between websites and companies who offer servers, cybersecurity and other services.
But large internet companies wield growing influence over public opinion, and Lim said the decisions by companies to give The Daily Stormer a lesser platform sets a dangerous precedent.
“You don’t need free speech to talk about the weather. You need free speech to share ideas that are controversial. And, a lot of times, censorships starts with scoundrels,” he said. “Once it evolves from there, the next step is ‘Hey, I don’t like this guy’s ideas, or this guy’s ideas,’ and then no one can talk and we’re living in Nazi Germany.”
His sentiments echo those made by the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation who wrote on Aug. 17 that the situation was “deeply fraught with emotional, logistical and legal twists and turns,” but that platforms stepping against online speech can have real-world impacts.
“We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love,” the organization concluded.
BitMitigate makes no money from The Daily Stormer. It offers website protection free and generates revenues by protecting video game servers for $25 per month.
Still, the publicity has helped Lim’s business. Since adding The Daily Stormer in August, BitMitigate has doubled its share of clients and now protects more than 1,000 websites, he said.
“I don’t check the numbers every day but I just know some big websites are coming on that don’t have anything to do with the right or anything,” he said.
Peers in the tech industry have also reached out to Lim to offer support and approach him with business, he said. BitMitigate is one branch of a software development enterprise he runs largely by himself, though he said he does sometimes contract friends for help.
Selling cybersecurity and developing similar software nets him more than $100,000 annually, he said, though it fluctuates. Besides growing his business, his biggest hobby is bikes, on which he said he has spent tens of thousands of dollars.
A graduate of Mountain View High School and a college dropout, Lim said he has never been arrested nor has he attended a political protest. That doesn’t mean he isn’t political — his Twitter account is papered with mistrust of both the left and the right.
On Sept. 17, he wrote “the left (is) definitely more dangerous and oppressive than the right,” and wrote anyone who would infringe on freedoms should hang themselves.
When asked how he squares his political beliefs, he said he skews left. But he views political correctness and so-called “safe spaces” associated with the left as precursors to censorship.
“We worked so hard to get here. Now, some people wake up and decide ‘I don’t want this or that anymore,'” he said. “Because we are so privileged, they have free speech their whole lives and all they can see is the downside (of free speech), which are the scoundrels.”