Kiwi Farms, an internet forum that lost its online security provider following an outcry over alleged hate speech and harassment by its users, has subsequently seen a surge in cryptocurrency donations, according to research by TRM Labs.
In September 2022, cybersecurity provider Cloudflare publicly terminated its services to Kiwi Farms following what Cloudflare called “a pressure campaign” to deplatform Kiwi Farms which targeted Cloudflare and other providers utilized by the site.
When Cloudflare terminated its services, many predicted the demise of Kiwi Farms. However, over the following six months, Kiwi Farms’ incoming Ethereum and Bitcoin volumes jumped by 220% and 230% respectively, an apparent attempt by the forum’s supporters to use crypto to counteract its public deplatforming.
What is Kiwi Farms?
Kiwi Farms was founded in 2013 by Josh Moon, reportedly a former administrator at 8chan, another online community known for hate speech and political extremism. Moon claimed that he built Kiwi Farms to host the “gossip and exploitation of the mentally handicapped for amusement purposes.”
Following Cloudflare’s termination citing “unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life,”in September 2022, the site returned to full functionality within days, despite suffering from cyberattacks. It has since been linked to multiple online service providers who provide services to other infamous sites.
Kiwi Farms Crypto Donations Surge by 230%
Since beginning to publicly ask for financing in 2016, Kiwi Farms has relied on donations to finance the site. Payment options include checks, gift cards and multiple cryptocurrency addresses.
According to TRM Labs research, the 2022 deplatforming of Kiwi Farms by its online security provider correlated with a precipitous increase in cryptocurrency activity associated with the forum’s addresses. Today, most donations are made in Ethereum or Bitcoin.
Since January 2022, Kiwi Farms’ public donation addresses have received just over USD 30,000 in Bitcoin and just over USD 6,500 in Ethereum. In the eight months prior to the Cloudflare deplatforming, Kiwi Farms donation addresses received around USD 2,108 per month in incoming Ethereum transfers and USD 9,289 in incoming Bitcoin transfers.
Yet in the six months after Cloudflare abandoned Kiwi Farms, incoming Ethereum volume jumped just over 220% while incoming Bitcoin volume jumped just over 230%. Outgoing Ethereum and Bitcoin volume increased just over 540% and 365% respectively, indicating an increased reliance by the site on crypto donations to fund its operational costs.
About half of the just over USD 30,000 received in Bitcoin by Kiwi Farms since January 2022 was traced by TRM Labs to a single address. These funds were all transferred to Kiwi Farms through intermediary addresses after the September 3, 2022 deplatforming, in five transactions of about USD 1,500-8,000 each. By contrast, Kiwi Farms’ average donation size since January 2022 was around USD 160.
Once donations arrive at Kiwi Farms, funds are aggregated and sent out in larger sums. The destinations of these funds are established VASPs, which receive direct deposits from Kiwi Farms donation addresses as well as indirect deposits through intermediary addresses.
The chart above shows at least one payment processor receiving funds from Kiwi Farms, directly and indirectly, both before and after Cloudflare’s exit. This indicates that the deplatforming has caused little disruption to Kiwi Farms’ ability to deposit funds into a VASP and potentially offramp them to fiat currency.
Kiwi Farms has been able to maintain its forum operations after the brief disruption in September 2022, thanks in part to rising cryptocurrency donations, with Moon publicly acknowledging crypto’s centrality to the survival of his project. “Cryptocurrency remains the single best way of directly supporting the site and has been for six years now,” he claimed in a post on Kiwi Farms in November 2022.
Kiwi Farms appears to have adapted to attempts by established VASPs to blacklist the site, first by switching the site’s own donation address to unhosted wallets and later recommending that Kiwi Farms users send funds via their own unhosted wallers. The latter method remains actively in use, according to TRM analysis. Since January 2023, at least ten transactions involving Kiwi Farms have taken place directly from VASPs.
As long as cryptocurrency remains a significant funding source for controversial or extremist forums, understanding how such sites attempt to overcome efforts to shut down or restrict their operations will be crucial to mitigating future threats.
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