In addition to fighting for free speech, the college dropout has acknowledged that inserting himself into the national news could help promote his new startup.
Nick Lim, a 20-year-old Washington resident, was watching the news last week and was dismayed that tech companies had pulled the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer down from the web.
Lim isn’t a fan of the site’s deeply anti-Semitic and racist content. But he doesn’t think businesses should be able to take down websites from the internet just because they don’t agree with what’s on the site.
So Lim agreed to offer the Daily Stormer website cybersecurity protection services for free though his new startup, called BitMitigate.
The site had supported the violent white nationalist rally last week in Charlottesville, Virginia, and later posted an article mocking the death of Heather Heyer, an anti-fascist counter-protester killed when a proclaimed white supremacist drove his car into a crowd.
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“I thought it was a violation of free speech,” Lim said in an interview Sunday.
Lim said his startup protected the site when it briefly relaunched over the last few days on various, smaller domains.
However, the site was again left without a host as of Sunday, and was not available on the web. If it relaunches, Lim said his startup will continue to protect it from cyber attacks.
While Lim paints himself as a free-speech defender, he is, of course, aware of the publicity his actions have brought.
The startup is just Lim, and he has no office space. He runs it out of the Vancouver, Wash., area where he lives
He said BitMitigate protects about 300 websites from DDoS, or distributed denial of service attacks, which can shut down websites by overwhelming them with traffic.
Lim noted the vitriol it provoked from people who argued that the site was promoting hate speech, but he argues he does not play any role in that.
“I think it’s a strange response,” he said. “It’s like going after the phone company because you don’t like somebody who’s on the phone with you.”
Lim said he has not been in contact with the Daily Stormer’s staff and has not read its articles, though he understands generally that it targets nonwhite people.
“Frankly, I’m the target of such hate speech,” said Lim, who is Asian American.
“Frankly, I don’t like the content on the website,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s something I should really comment on. I’m just a (DDoS) protection provider.”
He rejects the idea that by helping keep the website online, he is promoting hate speech: He says someone else — perhaps someone with bigoted views — would step in to offer their services if he hadn’t. And even if the website does go away, the neo-Nazis’ hate speech would continue in other forums.
“You can’t remove an idea,” Lim said. Asked why he would still play a role in helping promote hateful ideas, he said he “looked at the bigger picture,” and decided it was more important to protect free speech.
There could, of course, be another motive: Lim’s actions have promoted his months-old startup venture, which he launched after dropping out of college and which, until last week, had no mentions in the press or traction on social media.
Lim told ProPublica, which first reported his involvement on Friday, that he thought helping the Daily Stormer “would really get my service out there.” And it has — it’s now been featured on TechCrunch, Axios and other popular websites.
On Sunday, Lim claimed he hadn’t thought much about the PR aspect of his decision, and noted he hadn’t made any money off the services for the Daily Stormer.
And the saying that “any publicity is good publicity” might not apply to Lim in this case.