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Interview: Matthew Prince with Eric Goldman

Jan 02, 2022
alright hi everyone my name is

eric

goldman

i'm a law professor at santa clara university law school and today i'm talking to

matthew

prince

who is the ceo of cloudflare and i want to thank

matthew

for join us. today thanks for having me

eric

ok what we're going to do is answer some scripted questions maybe a little back and forth let me start on softball so don't tell me what cloudflare is and why what did you found it You sure do, Cloudflare's mission to begin with is to help build a better internet, so when you approached us for this project, it seemed like you seemed to be right down the alley of things we think about all the time.
interview matthew prince with eric goldman
Well we started the company michelle zatlin, lee holloway and i in 2009 and we realized that first of all the world was moving away from local hardware and boxes that you would buy to services that were delivered in the cloud and all the things you had had turn ed to make sure everything you were doing online was secure uh if everything was moving in the cloud there was nowhere to put a box or install the installation software necessarily to help protect it and so what we decided to do was build establish a giant network that would allow our customers, who are everything from individual developers or small businesses to some of the largest internet properties and companies online, to use our network to be firstly secure, fix some of the underlying bugs of the internet to make it more secure, secondly, reliable, make sure that if someone drops an anchor in the Mediterranean, it cuts a piece of fiber optic cable so your website doesn't go offline basically we can route all of that trouble and make sure it stays reliable and stable all the time and last but not least fast we wanted to make sure it's as fast as possible possible I think over time there's a bump the other things we have that we've added to that kind of two other pillars one is um private uh it turned out as we've thought about our business we really believe that privacy it's a real key to both security and what people are looking for on the internet and then also efficiency, which really translates to how do we make sure that the internet is available to everyone everywhere in the world, whether it's a person who creates content and wants to reach a global audience or you're part of that global audience and you're and you're somewhere, you know, in sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America or somewhere where you might not have the best internet access, we want to do the that we can make sure that the Internet is available to everyone, okay, great, so when I think about the Internet ecosystem, we sometimes talk about layers in a telecom stack, let me talk a little bit, we thought. over a hierarchy of different activities there are people sometimes called edge providers or websites or online services available that are facing the end user and then there are the hosts for those services that actually provide the servers and cloud that are necessary for those providers to perimeters communicate with their users and then there are the ISPs that connect the servers to the rest of the internet and then there is the physical layer, the actual hardware that moves all the data that makes up the internet, um can you tell me a little about where Cloudflare fits into that telecom stack? or how do you think about it in a different way, yeah, you know, I tend to think about it, maybe from the perspective of where the ultimate responsibility for the content is, um, which is what's flowing, so I think it relates kind of with what you said but but but I would have it I would have something um a little different uh take on some level I think it all starts with an individual on so my level every time there is content that is created online there is an individual that it's creating that content i guess in some future world it could be an ai or something else but today you know it's largely the individual and in a perfect world individuals would have that responsibility uh for that content and and responsibility for the laws and uh and standards and everything else that exists around the world under that individual would be some kind of platform uh that that uh is helping to promote organize distribute uh the content so that it can be uh, it could be a facebook or a twitter or a wordpress ess that you're actually providing that infrastructure that's distributing and organizing and making available the content that's online under that um and this is where it maps to what you said is me.
interview matthew prince with eric goldman

More Interesting Facts About,

interview matthew prince with eric goldman...

Think of it as the hosting provider, in some In some cases, like Facebook, it's both the host and the platform itself, but in a lot of other cases, you might have two different organizations that would be responsible for that next, you'd think there's sort of networks, uh, connecting everything, Uh, and then underneath that would be some of the fundamental, foundational types of Internet protocols and technologies. uh, that has to exist to make things work, um, the interesting thing about us is that I think we would more naturally say that we're sort of a network layer, but I think we have certain products that are on that. hosting layer and we have certain products that are a little bit down on that more fundamental internet layer, so something like domain registration, which feels like a very, very fundamental aspect of, uh, how it all works and ultimately instance, you probably know your domain registrar. you have to be at the bottom guy of the pile of people who are responsible for that content and so as we think about what our role is online what we have is we think about it a lot on a product by product basis because we have certain products where we're actually the host and I think in those cases we have more responsibility for the content that's in those products we have other products where we're just the domain registrar we're just the dns provider and I think in those cases , we're a little bit lower in the stack and I'd be more reticent to take some sort of editorial or any kind of content control feature, huh, but for most of our products, I think we're squarely in there on that vendor network so I'm not sure exactly how that's my taxonomy of how I think about the world and and on one level the way I think of it's almost like it's almost like jenga blocks stacked on top of each other the other one where you know you want to do as little damage as possible or you want to have the narrowest kind of uh impact p It's possible, since you're making content decisions, if at any point you pull out the domain registrar, pull up the net, then everything what is above is complicated we have many platforms or hosts that use us as clients so we are always very reticent to make policy decisions on behalf of what would affect those hosts before they have a chance or those platforms before they have a chance to take action on their own so I think in an ideal world you start at the top and work your way down um uh but then again that's how we frame the conversation is how we think about some of these issues of policy and actually that's a useful framework for the rest of our discussion so I'm happy to work with him when we think about something like section 230 makes it very clear that the individual is the pers one responsible for their actions and then everyone else below that individual in their hierarchy is absolved of responsibility for that individual's conduct or content um and so on, but what we're also seeing is a lot of pressure being exerted to push accountability and editorial decisions deeper and deeper into the taxonomy of um that you described and I guess one of the unanswered questions of our day is how deep should it be, um, you know, if it stops with the individual and everyone else gets acquitted or we say that maybe the closer they are, but not the individual itself, we're going to push a more responsibility towards them, you know, I would love that there's a bright line.
interview matthew prince with eric goldman
I'm not sure there's always a bright line. and in that case you know that the platform probably has a responsibility to make sure that they're doing what they can to deal with that content and I think you know if that's what the law says now in the United States or not around the world, I think only if you think about it from first principles, you like it, you want to have as limited an impact as possible, but at the same time, when we all agree that there is some social harm and there are some things that we could totally agree on it's terrible societal damage that you probably want if the individual doesn't take responsibility you want a lower layer in the stack to take that responsibility but I think it solves that process so you don't want to go down to the lower layers if you're one of our responsible you know platform providers or hosting providers if all of a sudden we pull the rug for you then you know your first phone the call is ok how can i how can i trust you ed on this and actually, when we've made decisions in the past to close, um, you know, uh, individual customers, one of the first things we get is a big, responsible, very legit platform? s that they call us and tell us how we can be sure that you won't do the same to us one day and I think that it's actually a very reasonable question and I think that for us it's nice it's quite simple there's a there's a big difference between meeting a Whole hosting provider who is dedicated to knowing illegal content and knowing someone who is a fully responsible host or a platform who knows not to be held accountable that you really know is working hard to undermine, uh, law enforcement enforcement , the legitimate actions of law enforcement and other things compared to which you know are again part of the kind of larger social contract and as we think about it, you know again it starts with the individual but there will be a times um and actually probably quite often that bad people will need to get cops for the platforms they use it will be much rarer than the underlying um hosts w will have that policing the platforms maybe weird, much rarer still that a provider like cloudflare has to police the hosts and then hopefully we don't get to a point because I think there are some really significant consequences where you deny fundamental technologies of Internet for everyone but you know the most egregious content you should almost never get to the point where you say dns is cut off for everyone or domain registration is cut off for everyone that seems like that kind of basis on which all the rest of the internet is built and it seems very dangerous uh if we start playing with that on a political or an editorial basis it reminds me of the old soup battles coming up on their decade anniversary. where was the congress?
interview matthew prince with eric goldman
You know, just a whisper away from imposing liability at the domain name registrar level, that obviously would have fundamentally changed the way the Internet works and huh. and again I think the challenge is you know if you deny someone the ability to register a domain that it's a global impact and one of the biggest realizations that it's been a real surprise in retrospect starting cloudflare is just how diverse they are the policies around the world, you know when we launched the company in 2010, the day we launched we had customers in 10 countries around the world by the end of the first month, we had customers in literally every customs. in every country in the world and we only had eight employees so the challenges of figuring out how you think about what are the different political decisions around the world is tough and the more you can narrow it down again to something that is closer to a local supplier again, ideally the individual, but then maybe whatever platform is serving that local community or hosting provider is serving you, maybe a little bit larger community, you know.
When you start reaching out to us, you start having impacts that are much broader and, um, and again, I think that's counter to a lot of how, you know, the internet was formed in the beginning and when. you get to foundational technologies like dns or domain registration, you know that they tend to only be globally applicable and it's, um, it's actually a pretty small list of content that globally we can all agree on, um should only you know that will disappear from the internet, can we go back to that almost romantic scenario where you have eight employees serving a truly global customer base?
Is there something you would do differently because now that you know you're going to have to navigate this asshole of divergent or heterogeneous laws, you know that, uh, uh, actually I think I mean there's a lot of things I would have done differently in the beginning of cloudflare, although I think one of the things that we were better prepared than most was in, um, some understanding of the complications and consequences of these really difficult policy issues. remember you know about uh 18 months after it actually gets a little less than that 14 months after we launched uh one day you know the fbi showed up at our office with two national security letters and and um and you know whatwe did you're not allowed to talk about them which is what it is uh which is arguably a violation of the first amendment and there's no check and balance there they're completely run by the executive branch which it could be said that it is a due process. rape and uh, and I think you know what it was, I think if you hadn't, I often wonder if the three years I spent in law school were worth it, but then I remember moments like those where, um, You know I had the I think um either the courage or the gall or the arrogance um to go to our meeting and say you know what we're going to do we're going to sue the federal government and um and I and so I really think you know on some level um we were really thinking through a lot of these policies i mean the question we always asked ourselves when we were eight people on top of a nail salon in palo alto california was if cloudflare ran all the internet what would be the right policy decision and i think that helped us helped very early on make some very difficult decisions around political decisions and optimize them for what was the best long-term interest of the internet as a whole and um and so on so there's a lot of things I would have done differently on the technical perspective on the technical side um and go to market and all kinds of other things, but I'm actually very proud of how thoughtful and long-term oriented we've been on the policy side. and and uh and and and it's part of what I enjoy the most about my job and about working at the company we can go back to this uh topic about bad people and what you should I'm done with them and we can focus on their ddos ​​service.
I think that's the purest form. The question arises when I think of your ddos ​​service. I think of a service designed to protect good actors from bad actors. that cloudflare is protecting is itself a bad actor and I guess there's a second order question there, how would cloud4 or anyone else know it's a bad actor? um, but can you talk to me a little bit about this dilemma than me? I'm having this idea, you know, when it comes to protecting bad actors from other bad actors, as opposed to protecting good actors from bad actors, yeah, I mean there are certain cases where it's pretty easy, like this that you already know if it's us. company based uh that there are certain entities in the United States that are subject uh to sanctions um rules and requirements and to know if someone tries to register and they are in you know a terrorist organization or know some type of agreement by the United States government as a sanctioned party then we don't provide our services to them and that's pretty straightforward sometimes it gets a bit complicated if they hide their identity or other things but I think that's one of those places where you know over time we've gotten a lot more sophisticated about how to identify that and figure it out i think the hardest time comes when it's an organization that's, you know, doing something that seems wrong uh you know one example in the ddos ​​space was sorry um, a number of um, services that you can hire to launch ddos ​​attacks against other clients, um, uh, they, sometimes like how they would deal with their rivals. is that they would launch ddos ​​attacks on each other and just so you know they would all check in to the cloud the free version of cloudflare so you know they are protected from each other.
There's a knockout guy between them and I remember, um, there's a security journalist, a guy named Brian Krebs, who I really admire and hold in very high regard, but you know we've gotten into sort of prolonged knockout fights where basically he's advocating for the kind of future of the Mad Max world, which is that the way he could solve the ddos ​​problem is that he would basically just remove the protection for all ddos ​​services and they'd all fight each other. and they kill each other, um, you know, I think there are, um, there are some problems, you know if you study nash equilibria and things that actually what you could end up with is much, much stronger, more threatening, more evil ddos ​​services but that was one of those early questions and i remember they came up uh for us in um early 2011 when lol sack with the um the hacker group uh signed up for us and again cloudflare has a free version of our service and we d people on screen, um, you know, except against sanctions lists and whatnot, uh, before they signed up and back in 2011, we weren't particularly sophisticated with it, um, but they signed up and I remember suddenly liking them you know there were thousands of people yelling at us saying they know how they possibly have this bunch of hackers that are using our services and often we find ourselves a bit behind where we don't know what what we've never heard of the hacker group and yet people on Twitter or email or whatever yell at us about this or that and then the challenge and again i i this is not an excuse but but I think one of the challenges is you know when you're eight people um how can you be an expert on not only all the hacker groups in the world but you also know when pop vote.hk registers huh and how do you do it do you know that this is the democratic movement of hong kong um and then in that c So when you arrive you know an order from the chinese government say removing it what do you do eh when you know when when eh when you know eh free catalonia you know sign up how do you have the experience in uh that's the site of catalan independence and all the political ramifications that come behind that when when um uh do you know when an independent journalist in um uh in ukraine registers uh how can you know that this is you know the center of um you know the conflict in Crimea over and over again today, I think we have, even though we're still a relatively small organization, we have much more sophistication and experience, but you know each of those questions that I just outlined as hypothetical, uh, we came up with it when we had less than 30 employees and, well, you know, I think it's hard and even after you've been through it, it's hard to understand how global tech companies that really take off become alm almost instantly and asking leaning on them. to say they know to be not just tech savvy but policy savvy especially when it's early in their history um that's a pretty tough task um and a pretty big question if you ask that then you know that's great for us um, that means there won't be a disruptive cloudflare news service coming up um because they know if and yet now we have the resources to have the political people and to have the government relations team and to have those things and in front of us will be you know the facebook and google and microsoft of the world and so you know that I think one of the things that one of the challenges here is how you start to think about what are the right responsibilities that you set for the organization of larger organizations, but then how do you enable a new entrant in the market to be able to compete and that's um is an that that's that that that that?
That's that's above my pay level, so I hope that you and the people who see it and think about it, certainly, it's a question that I think our project has to deal with, because there's no question of That is where the tenor of the conversation is. I'm going to get back to this kind of navigation for the political thing in a bit, but if you'll excuse me, I want to talk about the situation with the daily muggings and my personal opinion is that, um, I thought that the letter you wrote when I disconnected the Daily Stormer I really thought that was a great transparency um you were there for us you're making a decision you didn't want to make a decision you told us why you didn't want to make the decision decision um and so you really set out I think the whole story um behind it where usually in a calm situation like that it's either a single positive narrative or you say as little as possible and get the hell out of there so I thought it was a really useful artifact um t and internet history to see how he expounds his thinking and if I may I want to read a part of what he wrote. should be restricted, companies shouldn't, um, can you talk to me a little bit about, um, how the daily storms encapsulate these dynamics that we've been discussing, uh, you know, when you're dealing with someone who might have gone from being an unknown actor to maybe a bad actor and when you say ok they are no longer eligible for our services we need to protect against them they are no longer the ones we should be protecting yeah so let's start with um transparency when we think about what they are Kind of cloudflare's core values ​​and your core values ​​have to be things that set you apart from other companies, so obviously we want to be a place that's fair and reasonable and people can do their best work one and get rewarded. for the work that they do and they know that we are and we foster a diverse workplace and all of those things, but what are the things that I think are different about cloudflare?
I think we're a relentlessly curious organization, uh, we're always taking on new challenges, always looking for new things, I think we're a very principled organization, we'll talk a little bit more about some of that, but I think we're also a radically transparent organization, both internally as externally. and um and it's interesting because I think one of the biggest mistakes that tech companies have and I think there's almost a DNA that goes back probably at least to Fairchild semiconductor and and maybe even before that from some kind of just Implacable Secret which is almost pathological in most companies and where you know if you have the privilege of sitting in on policy meetings at Facebook, Google or Apple. e it's not like they're surprised by how difficult these issues are um it's that they have very nuanced conversations uh about these things what I think they're doing by mistake is they don't really share why these decisions are difficult they say you know we kicked them out because they violated paragraph 13g of our terms of service, but the terms of service isn't, you know again, it's not, it doesn't run automatically.
Missing from a lot of this is the conversation about how difficult these issues are, do you know if I go back to the Daily Stormer? So first of all, the Daily Stormer was a, you know, I mean the way to describe it. level and it was that they were a bunch of neo-Nazis, I think, more accurately, they were a bunch of internet trolls who were, um, you know if, if you know, loving white kittens had been the most defensive thing you could have. done Online they would have loved the white kittens they were literally looking for whatever was most offensive partly because they were just looking for attention around them at least it seemed to us that doesn't mean it wasn't unbelievably hurting it was unbelievably disgusting it wasn't a organization that we were proud of, you know, use it using our services, but again, if we think about it from the perspective of whether Cloudflare managed the entire Internet, you know whether they should be on the Internet or not. like it felt like it was a pretty tough decision for us to make, you know, I think over the years we've just kept seeing more and more times where you know something horrible would be using us and we get a call from a legislator, a journalist, who said: you know what, how are you thinking about this and why aren't you kicking them out? sitting on the stack we are different than facebook or twitter and and um and we think about it this way and that doesn't mean we don't have responsibility but we think it should be developed uh in the following as follows and 95 of at the time that the legislator, the journalist would say yes, that makes a lot of sense and we would say that if it were a journalism desk, you would write an article saying that you know it makes a lot of sense and the journalists would say that you know the company is doing the right thing is not a story, so what we're not going to write that and yet policy makers generally like the right thing to be right but there's still another thing in the corner that I hate and I want to figure out how to control it and and and So what we saw was especially in Europe, uh, that there was, you know, more and more painting with a broad brush that tech companies need to do more to control bad content online and, to a large extent, when you know those policies were being written in the company. nies that policy makers were thinking of, do you know facebook, twitter and youtube? um but the way the policies were written, they were, sometimes, you know, they started to get to a point where we were worried that they might create some really undesirable consequences for us, and that was all the conversation we were having. on one side and then and then on the other, you know that we and internally said you know at some point we're going to have to kick someone out and then talk about why that's dangerous and then right at the point where we got to that Bottom line, um, you know the people at Daily Stormer, um just did some of the most disgusting things you can imagine doing as a human being and, uh, and you know if you're going to fire anyoneclient firing neo-nazi. the customers, um, it's really funny, so we'd fire them, but then, like you said, we wrote very specifically about what the consequences were and it's different than what I think a lot of tech companies do when journalists and lawmakers that you meet in The whole po The political spectrum called us um, we didn't say they know, no comment, instead, we engaged and talked about it and, um, me and I spent, you know, the better part of a year meeting with everyone, um , you know the southern poverty law. center to the institute catto european politicians and everyone else and sharing a little bit about who we were but you also know how to talk about what the various parts of the stack were on and i think um there were still a lot of people that didn't agree with our general approach, but I think people appreciated at least that we were transparent about it, that we engaged, that we listened and thought about it.
I think over time, those sets of conversations have become you know. the hierarchy of sort of individual platform host network fundamental internet technology um and again I think we've moved from saying you know we'd rather never kick anybody out to saying listen let's g to be a little more nuanced about that if you have a bad person, a bad platform and a bad host, then sometimes it may be that we take action, but that should happen quite infrequently and you know for better or for worse, since there are laws around the world that oblige us to take certain actions, so how can we make sure that as we take action to satisfy the rules of China, Russia, India, Brazil, Canada or whoever, how do we do it? sure that the rules of that country don't extend beyond its borders um and and i think that's um i think that if we hadn't taken that step uh you know a risk that you know that emmanuel kant will turn his grave over, I mean it was if you're going to use someone as a means to an end, a lot of neo-Nazis are very good good people to do that, but I think we learned a lot, I think it helped shape what has subsequently been more nuanced and technically comprehensive h regulation that has been developed since then um I don't think we're out of the woods I think we're going to have to keep talking about these things um but I think that's um I feel like we've gotten a lot more sophisticated, uh, in the way we think about these policies, partly because we went through that exercise, yes, and you mentioned earlier that, uh, when you disconnect a customer, you shake the trust of other customers. to have that experience in this case or his other clients finally said um you know yes please more of that um okay so two different stories um so one um story uh which one is probably the least principled um one was that one of The things that was the ultimate determination in us making the decision to fire this particular client was that one of our big clients basically said it's them or us and and uh and that wasn't a comfortable conversation, you know, because we are we a business and and you know we have shareholders and you know we have responsibilities to them and at the end of the day you know to sacrifice someone who doesn't pay us anything and it's disgusting for someone who pays us a lot and it's a good organization um that's what we didn't love being in that situation but it was that it put us in a difficult place what is interesting is the general advice of that organization um about six months later uh he called me back and I said I owe you an apology and this person said what are you talking about and this person had just been through another situation where they were a software company and had provided services in a way that a certain group of people found offensive and blew up in their faces and necks General Counsel said, "You know, I thought this was really simple, but now that I've lived through it myself, I see that this is incredibly complicated and I think you know that." that this is um i i i no I do not envy anyone who has to live live these these these these questions and consequences but but I do believe that they are they that they that they like us like us how we politicize who clients are um that will have that will mean that, uh, as people want to take the platform away from customers that are off-the-shelf individuals who will look at all the different technologies that they rely on and find ways to say that they know, can we get the browser to block them can we make that Does your payment processor block them? can we get your domain registrar to block them? that turned off, you know in the whole industry, uh, that it will really, um, you know, it will take people off the internet and, again, we can, you can think if that's a good thing or a bad thing, um, you know, but it certainly is. a is a thing with seeing and significant consequences that we should that we should be looking into um that was basically the only customer that had given us that um conversation pretty much everyone else um when when we did our biggest customer calls were wait a second ya you know how to walk tell us exactly how you did it and explain how we can be sure you know what we think of this infrastructure company um they will never ever do that to us again and so um and that's what you know big reliable um trustworthy you know institutions financial and uh and large e-commerce platforms uh and others and um and not internet trolls and no one who would particularly care but I think that's something a lot more people were worried about you know wow please do how can we make sure that you won't use that power against us instead of uh how do we make sure you use that power more, more, um, more on the future and like? the phrase to political jesus politicizat politicization i don't think i can say that word uh politicization of customers um because in the end i think that the decisions your company makes have political consequences, whether you like them or not, they seem inevitable and so how do you navigate in that environment when you think your preferred option would be to not get involved in politics and if that option is available now how well do you know it really can be very difficult in other ways so for example um you know we watch uh with quite a bit of concern in elections 2016 Americans uh as it became increasingly clear that there was foreign influence um through disinformation campaigns and hacking and you know internally um you know a a group of our team said there must be something we can do to help with this guy of problems, so we launched in early 2017, we launched something we call the Athenian project that provides our services at no cost to any uh state uh local or or um or or uh uh county official that is helping to administer the election in any way and you know we can't protect against everything we don't sit in front of the voting machines but you know we can help you protect the website you use to register to vote or um or the uh or the uh the place you go to find out where your polling place is or the API that um that the district administrators um uh will report the results of the vote of um and you know and over the course of the four years between 2016 and 2020 uh over half of uh US states and and and and a majority of um of the so-called uh battleground states in the US they signed up to use our services and um and so you know one of the challenges is uh if we were seen as political in some way like we lean one way or the other um you know who won or who lost the election could say wow, don't you cheat the election results because you know that cloudflare was secretly behind the scenes pushing in one direction or another, um or another, and so you know I think there are certain institutions and organizations in the world that we specifically require to be apolitical and the process of voting is is is one of them and as you know I met with many of the people who are locally in charge of administering elections, now they know that it is absolutely thankless, hard but vitally important work and the fact that again we, as a society, at least in the United States, we've decided that it's a job that should be very apolitical for what seemed like obvious reasons, I think that suggests that there should be certain institutions and organizations that are incredibly important that they remain as apolitical as possible , whether you know or not, as the rules develop around you, you know various services, whether that is your facebook or hosting providers or network providers or domain registrars if the standards are developed around that that's the same or you don't know I think I think time will tell one of the things that is difficult about all this is that you know the Internet it's still in its utter infancy and it took us a long time to figure out what were the norms around you know the printed word what were the norms around radio what were the norms around television what were the norms around you know the system telephone and then what are the once you find out what those rules are what are the appropriate laws that follow eh that um I think we are still you know as soon as it is not clear um either because you know if today if I was talking in my my my phone and me and i said something that you know is incredibly racist or offensive and the phone operator you know dialed and disconnected that would be very very strange um and therefore it doesn't seem right If the underlying network operator for the phone makes that choice, on the other hand, it seems entirely reasonable, and indeed it is the norm worldwide, that at least at the time when newspapers were still thriving businesses, then in almost every major city in the world there were two different newspapers representing the two types of political extremes, uh, that was there and you know, I think one of the you know one of the interesting questions is, you know, which one is it?
I was at his house in DC and we were having a beer and I said well I've never seen anything like this in terms of this political contest and everything that goes on around it, you know? Do you think politics will ever go back to the way I remember it growing up? Watch the evening news with Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings or whoever it was and Julia said something that really stuck with me over the years. It's like why do you think that's the natural order of things? he said it's a response to new technology and new technology trying to keep it from being regulated where tv comes up in the 40's and 50's you know it's so unbelievably new profitable technology coming out and it's limited to the US really only three providers different nbc abc cbs and like they compete with each other a little bit but what they were really worried about was how to avoid regulation and so you know if you're going to create that as a business strategy you know what you do you hire every one of your anchors so they don't have an accent and you know he's from the middle of the country and it's amazing if you really look at the data how many news anchors actually grew up in kansas um you make sure you cover every political convention from the keynote to the balloon crash at the end, that as three different networks covering the exact same thing is like the worst idea and yet to this day the major networks continue to In covering, you know the political conventions, um, from beginning to end, basically with the same content, the same feeds, you know, no, you don't oppose the same time. the laws as they come as they are proposed because again what you're really trying to do is avoid regulation um I think if you then start thinking about what are the platforms today that have incredible value and who are trying like crazy to stay neutral if that's google with search and i'm surprised there isn't a fox news search engine like overnight if fox launched a search engine it would have a 20% market share which ch is that by itself a 40 billion dollar company uh you know in the United States and yet you know Google has done a great job at least with search staying right in the middle and yet you can start to see them get pushed in either direction the arguments they look for in search results are inherently political um you know facebook is in exactly the same place and if you think of facebook as the modern day newspaper you know that really It's pretty remarkable to you that there's not a conservative facebook and a liberal facebook in the same way that's happening in the rest of the world, so I think that's a not sure it's the natural state, but you can stay neutral, I think there are certain institutions, uh like the voting apparatus that we as a society have decided are so important that they have to be that way. knowing what is the natural state now of television where is where it's obviously fractured into a million different channels or the natural state of newspapers which, um, you know, obviously I've fractured into int or different different sides, I'm not, It's going to be interesting to see how the kind of editorial performs the most, whether it's in search ranking or social media, how those, how those, if they're able to stay neutral.
Long term, let me ask you my last question, um, which I've seen previously and you've alreadytouched, but knowing what you know now, 12 years after cloudflare was founded, um, what would you do differently if you had to? go back in time, is there anything you've learned along the way that says boy do I really need to plan a different scenario than I thought it was? I think one of the things that has become a priority for us now that I wish had been a bigger priority in the beginning is how we can figure out how to, so you know, not only reduce, but also make our impact on the environment um you know a lot you know literally negative the internet burns up you know a lot of resources and energy resources a lot of which are wasted and I think it's something that, you know, we have, only recently, we realized how important that is and I think we're taking we're doing a lot of things so you know that our our carbon footprint um um negative that that was the first thing that came to mind because it's something that really in the last 18 months um has become internally a priority and it's something that could have been a higher priority um earlier in the history of the company I think from a policy perspective um you know I think we did a good t I work getting involved in policy conversations early and I think we hit way above our weight um but I wish you knew that you can always do more and I wish we had done more I think the place we haven't paid enough attention to that um that my hunch is uh it's probably the most important The last region of the world for the future of Internet policy and regulation is India.
I think there used to be sort of two surveys on internet regulation. They were kind of Chinese style. Somehow, it didn't make a lot of sense to me and then someone described it in a way that really clicked, and they said you know if you're launching a radio station or a TV station, um, you have to go to the FCC to be able to get spectrum clearance and there would be some rules that would feel a bit arbitrary you know there are seven words you can't say on air and if you break those rules your spectrum license will be taken away huh they said you know that's exactly the model of how China thinks about the Internet, which is that you know you have to apply for a license called an icp license to be able to post content within China, there are some rules that you have to follow if you don't f Follow the rules, they take away your license and you and you disappear from the internet and i think that's actually you know there are some reasons that don't make sense to everyone but i think if you just think about it like oh it's that they think about the internet the same way that e the US think about radio or television, um, it seems a little less strange, but you know that that was one direction of politics, the other was the direction of US politics, you know that it's hard to overstate how radically libertarian the American view of free speech is and you know I grew up part of that my father was a journalist for part of his career and you know we talked about the first amendment and all of that for the dinner table so it seems to work pretty well for me but but but it's a radical radical radical experiment and it's not the majority opinion around the world and what's been amazing about the internet is that it basically embraced the American approach to freedom of expression and I exported it globally, which has obviously been very disruptive to many companies and many institutions around the world.
I think unfortunately the world is not going to continue to accept that kind of American view of internet regulation eh in the future and even the US might not have accepted the American view of internet regulation I don't think the people in most countries in the world are ready to go full chinese version huh and that the horse is out of the stable in most places so its hard to put it back but i think the world is looking for what is that new model and, and I think that Europe, you know, has a lot of things. but in a way it doesn't have, it doesn't have the kind of cohesion to figure it out, um, brazil has the kind of gravitational mass, but, um, it has a number of other things there that they're focused on, I think india is the other country that's going to really maybe set what's the new um standard for internet regulation and I think that's something you know on the one hand um you know it's amazing that it's a very well functioning democracy and has very free speech strong speech rights, on the other hand, there's been a lot of concerning rules and regulations over the year around encryption and other things, so I think that's one place that I think we haven't invested in as an organization huh and maybe as um as a group of people who are thinking about internet politics and I think seeing what happens in India and where and where India goes um is something that we're spending more time thinking about and I and I would encourage is what people want if people If you are interested in the future of internet regulation please spend some time looking at what happens there and if you please me on that last point though there is something that Cloudflare or a broader set of internet services could have done that would have prevented the possible crisis that we could experience in India, where I am very concerned about the rules that the government is adopting, but it was that avoidable or was it that. it's always inevitable that we just got here now yeah you know you wonder what so you know i guess maybe a different way of asking the question would be if there is any way the world could have continued on the path of following the in the American model of internet regulation, which is very much an anything goes model, and I think that's, you know, I'm not sure it's a stable place, for this, I think the internet is an incredibly disruptive force for traditional organizations that you know that yes you know episode four of Star Wars seemed pretty optimistic but episode five when the empire strikes back and I think we've lived through episode four and we're going to episode five and and and and you know governments and regulators all the world is definitely going to strike back um and i and i think um again i think that's to some degree a result of uh you know a number of excesses um that that um that that has happened online um t It's also the result of imposing what was once again a radically libertarian vision of free speech on a world that um doesn't necessarily accept it like you know I'm often tormented like you know the term but people want to criticize me they're like Matthew is a free speech absolutist and I'm like I'm not a free speech absolutist.
Not at all, I think I'm probably an absolutist of due process, but I think it's difficult. Nazi content in Germany and you say well what about the first amendment you know? ow they're polite if they don't roll their eyes um but but but they say listen if they're polite they'll say listen we understand that's part of their uh tradition and part of their history but please understand that we have a very different tradition because we had a history very different and i think you have to respect that on some level and so you know what i hope is what i hope is that you know we were sort of here what i hope is that we certainly don't slide down to some sort of fcc china, everything has to be licensed, a view of internet regulation globally, again I think it would be hard to get the horse going again. the barn, but I think there can be a lot of things that start to control that and the question, do you know how you could have prevented it?
I don't know, but I think it's a worth asking. it's worth asking and um and it's one that um and again I think that's what encourages me uh it's um that you know when we kicked out a bunch of neo-nazis in a somewhat arbitrary way you know several newspapers wrote leading newspapers in germany you know that neo nazis are bad but i'm not sure you know matthew

prince

or this low level network we've never heard of should be the one to make that determination so i think if governments know they have very transparent processes , uh uh and if they continue, you know what in the United States we call due process, what in the rest of the world you would call the rule of law. transition time that as long as there's transparency and accountability and consistency, which are the fundamental building blocks of any rule of law system, um, that we'll probably get out of this in a way that's um, where the internet is more like what it did in the last 30 years that so eh where the kind of w At best, I've looked at it as an afterthought because while there have been some real challenges that the internet has created, you know, I think none of us can underestimate the amount of good things, huh. that it's done and it's really important for all of us to continue to, um, you know, remind people that that, um, how I want to say, can you imagine how much worse this pandemic would have been if it had happened just 10 years earlier?
We were able to, we were able to, obviously it was still a horrible event for humanity, but a lot of people were able to continue to connect with their loved ones, do work, you know, carry on with their daily lives, in part because the Internet continued. work and um and i think i'm hopeful that uh that maybe that's one of the things that we'll remember and uh will help us fight to preserve um you know what we've created well um I always love to end on a note of optimism and you gave more than I expected so is there anything else you want to add now that's great otherwise I think we'll thank you well all I would ask is every time you write about the internet. no matter what the app says put it in all caps because if i have to point to a period a time when everything started to go wrong that was when the app said i believe in 2016 now you could use lower case on the internet and you know i believe the amazing thing about the internet is that there is a network of networks and there is only one and uh so i think it's important to be a proper name and so i have my little little crusade on the side: capitalize if you care about the internet capital me I feel like you can really tell the old guard of the internet by those who are still capitalizing on the internet.
I am one of them. It seems that you are too, but we are a dying breed. I do not do it. that that campaign in you know if you care abo ut the internet in caps like that

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