This trolling website targeted transgender people, Jews and the disabled. Here’s how it fell
Even among hate-spewing sites on the internet, Kiwi Farms stood out for its viciousness.
The forum’s homepage featured a “kill count” that tallied how many people the site had hounded to suicide. Harassing threads thousands of pages long each would target a single person who is transgender. It also published the screed of the shooter who murdered 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
“This was a website whose entire purpose was to cause people to die,” said Yonah Gerber, an archivist whose entire family was doxxed on Kiwi Farms because Gerber is Jewish and transgender. “It is that simple.”
The website, which was rife with antisemitic content and attracted about 16,000 visitors a day, was shut down by Cloudflare, the website service that hosted it, on Sept. 3.
But websites can find new host servers, and some victimized by Kiwi Farms fear that it could yet revive itself. After it was booted by Cloudfare, it was temporarily hosted by a Russian-based company and then by VanwaTech, before it was disabled on Sept. 8 in an anonymous operation designed to overwhelm its systems.
Here’s a primer on the site, and the stories of some of those harmed by it.
Who founded Kiwi Farms?
Joshua Moon, who uses the alias “Null” online, founded Kiwi Farms in 2013 to persecute a webcomic artist who was previously a target on 4chan, after the infamous alt-right, antisemitic website began to crack down more forcefully on harassment. The artist was also targeted on Encyclopedia Dramatica, a trolling website that focused solely on him. Users of that site began to use Kiwi Farms, then called CWCwiki for the artist’s initials, because they felt the Encyclopedia Dramatica page did not post enough private information about him.
Before Moon started Kiwi Farms, he was an administrator on 8chan, the unregulated forum website formed after 4chan moderators banned IP addresses for sharing illegal or dangerous material. 8chan is where the Chabad of Poway mass shooter posted an antisemitic statement and the El Paso mass shooter shared his manifesto.
Who have Kiwi Farms users targeted?
Although the website began as a campaign to harass one person, it soon expanded to dox and stalk transgender, Jewish, disabled and mentally ill people, as well as politicians and journalists. Kiwi Farms claims responsibility for the suicides of at least three people who were harassed on the website: American video game developer Chloe Sagal, a transgender woman; Canadian Julie Terryberry, harassed for her mental illness; and the non-binary Japan-based software developer known online as Near.
What did attacks on Kiwi Farms look like?
Users barraged victims with insults and false accusations and organized campaigns to get them fired from their jobs. They sent pizzas to their family’s homes which they then were expected to pay for. And they engaged in what’s known as swatting — reporting a serious, false crime at someone’s house to prompt emergency services to send heavily armed law enforcement officers.
How did Kiwi Farms get shut down?
After she was swatted on Kiwi Farms, and as a result detained by police, openly transgender Canadian Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti, known online as “Keffals,” spearheaded the Drop Kiwi Farms campaign. Its goal was to pressure Cloudflare into booting the website. Cloudflare dropped the site after law enforcement declared it a threat to public safety.
Has Kiwi Farms tried to return to the internet?
Moon moved the website to a Russian-based company DDoS-Guard, which hosts the official websites of Hamas, the alt-right social media app Parler, and various official Russian state websites. Kiwi Farms, if only for one day, returned online before DDos-Guard terminated services on Sept. 5, writing in a blog post that the website violates the company’s acceptable use policy. It then moved to the hosting site VanwaTech, which also hosts QAnon conspiracy website 8kun. An attempt to disrupt traffic to VanwaTech knocked Kiwi Farms offline. As of publication, it remains inaccessible.
How did antisemitism manifest itself on Kiwi Farms?
Both site owner Moon and users of Kiwi Farms were openly antisemitic. Multiple harassment targets of the website — known as “lolcows” on the website because they could be “milked” for laughs — were harassed due to their Judaism.
Moon has tweeted he would “cut off jew fingers” and harrassed Jewish journalist Joe Bernstein on Twitter. He has also posted content about his brief of the racist, antisemitic white genocide conspiracy theory, which claims Jews are behind a secret movement to make non-white people dominant in the U.S.
Yonah Gerber — who goes by they pronouns and has publicly shared their disability, trans identity, and conversion to Judaism online — was targeted on a lengthy Kiwi Farms thread, in which commenters focused in great part on their conversion. “Half of them could not believe that I converted, that any rabbi let me convert, but the other half was like, ‘of course she converted, because Jews have all this power in the world. It helps her make more money,’” they said.
Gerber also recalled reading the Christchurch Mosque shooting thread on Kiwi Farms, including comments that the mass shooter should have targeted a synagogue instead because “the Jews are more powerful than the Muslims.” Gerber and their friends also reported that antisemitism on Kiwi Farms spiked around the High Holidays, with many users posting Holocaust imagery. “It was so regular that I’ve joked one year that I would know when the High Holidays were coming, because the harassment went up,” they said. “It was so consistent. I think they knew the lunar calendar better than I did, frankly.”
How was Kiwi Farms removed from the internet archive?
As a professional archivist, Gerber led a successful campaign to remove Kiwi Farms from the Internet Archive, an online library of internet sites founded to provide universal access to digital information. They assumed that the archive would have objected, given its preservationist mission.
But Gerber said they had barely posted a Twitter thread urging the Internet Archive to remove Kiwi Farms from its database, when they noticed the archive had done just that.
Could Kiwi Farms rise again?
It’s possible that Kiwi Farms could someday find another host. But Gerber said if that should that happen, it would surely be less powerful, because Kiwi Farms’ reputation for malice is now far better known, and those targeted by it know that campaigns against it have proved effective.
“Has it solved the entire problem of online harassment? Obviously not,” they said. “But I think it’s gonna make people feel like they can finally speak up.”