By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Internet security company Cloudflare said on Thursday it will offer its full raft of protective services for free to "politically or artistically important" Web sites that come under politically motivated cyber-attack.
The San Francisco-based company is one of the most highly sought-after Internet service providers, but also highly criticized for serving customers the U.S. government views as terrorist organizations. It defends its customers from distributed denial-of-service attacks, an increasingly popular method used by hackers to take down Web sites.
Cloudflare's clients, which range from multinational corporations to Wikileaks to U.S.-sanctioned terror groups, sometimes pay upwards of millions of dollars a month for its services.
But Chief Executive Matthew Prince said this week that under a program called Project Gallileo, Cloudflare would offer its protective services for free to mostly small, independent blogs identified as politically important by a committee of 15 nonprofits including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Center for Democracy, and Access.
Sites protected under the program so far include a gay rights group based in the Middle East, an environmental group in Malaysia and a citizen journalism site covering the conflict in Ukraine, all of which have come under attack.
In a statement, Access executive director Brett Solomon hailed the project as a demonstration of how "Silicon Valley tech companies can actively create a more secure and safe internet for the world's most vulnerable internet users."
Prince said he opted to have a group of nonprofits choose which sites would be protected by Cloudflare rather than making judgments himself in order to avoid the appearance of partiality.
Cloudflare's policy of catering to all customers has made in a perennial target of criticism.
The company has often provided cyber-defense for opposing parties, including major banks, Anonymous, rival political parties in Mexico, the Israel Defense Forces as well as the militant wing of Hamas.
(Reporting by Gerry Shih; Editing by David Gregorio)