The online message board 8chan, which has been linked to three mass shootings in 2019, will be terminated, Cloudfare announced late Sunday night, just hours after the site’s founder called for its end.
Cloudfare will cut off services for 8chan at midnight PDT, CEO Matthew Prince said in a statement, though he noted that another network provider could bring 8chan back online. That’s what happened in 2017, when Cloudfare booted The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi message board.
“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths,” Prince said. “Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”
During media interviews earlier Sunday, 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan called for the imageboard ‘s end.
“Shut the site down,” Brennan told the New York Times on Sunday. “It’s not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realize it.”
Founded as an alternative to the more well-known 4chan message board, 8chan, or “Infinite Chan,” has nearly 20,000 public boards. The website’s welcome is, “Welcome to 8chan, the Darkest Reaches of the Internet.”
Many of the posts that could be quickly accessed prior to the website’s termination included offensive images and language.
Saturday’s shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, which left 20 dead and 26 injured, is the latest with a link to the website. The suspected gunman has been charged with capital murder and the crime is being investigated as a possible hate crime after the discovery of a racist manifesto on 8chan.
In March, a New Zealand man posted a lengthy manifesto to Twitter and to 8chan before killing 50 and injuring dozens in a rampage that was live-streamed on Facebook and Twitter.
In April, a shooter posted a manifesto to 8chan before killing one woman and injuring three others at a California synagogue.
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The New York Times reported 8chan, “remained on the fringes until 2014, when some supporters of GamerGate – a loose reactionary collection of anti-feminist video gamers – flocked to 8chan after being kicked off 4chan.
By Sunday evening, the shooter’s alleged manifesto was still circulating on 8chan.
A ‘venomous’ website for ‘extremist hate’
In interviews with the Washington Post and the New York Times, Brennan said 8chan needs to be shut down. He gave up control of the website to Army veteran Jim Watkins in 2015, both newspapers reported.
“The board is a receptive audience for domestic terrorists,” Brennan told the Post.
The Washington Post called the website “one of the Web’s most venomous refuges for extremist hate.”
One anonymous 8chan user, for example, praised the El Paso shooting in a thread, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a news release.
“The motive and the manifesto have not been named the entire day. There weren’t even speculations. They are f—— SCARED.”
‘But this isn’t the end’
In a message at the top of its website, 8chan states, “only content that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or other United States laws is deleted,” from the imageboard and warns users that posts and boards are user-created and “do not represent the opinions of the 8chan administration.”
Brennan told the Post that 8chan is a “vanity project” for Watkins that doesn’t make much money. He also told the newspaper the website’s servers are distributed around the world, which makes it difficult to take down.
It has also been protected from web-based attacks by Cloudflare, according to the Post. Cloudflare lawyer Douglas Kramer told the Post he worried dropping 8chan’s protection would encourage “cyber vigilantism.”
In its termination statement, Cloudfare said it feels uncomfortable “playing the role of content arbitrator” but called on technology companies to work with lawmakers on dealing with hate-filled sites.
“There comes a time when enough is enough,” Prince said in a tweet with the termination statement. “But this isn’t the end. We need to have a broader conversation about addressing the root causes of hate online.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/04/8-chan-third-mass-shooting-2019-linked-webs-darkest-reaches/1917135001/