On Sunday, following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, the founder of 8chan, where various shooters have posted their intention to harm others, called on the people who currently run it to shut it down.
Fredrick Brennan, 25, the software developer who started 8chan in 2013 as a “free speech friendly 4chan alternative,” as he told The New York Times, stated, “Shut the site down. 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.”
The Times reported of Brennan’s creation of the site, “He was upset that 4chan had become too restrictive, and he envisioned a site where any legal speech would be welcome, no matter how toxic. The site 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.”
4chan was founded in 2003.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Times, “8chan is almost like a bulletin board where the worst offenders go to share their terrible ideas. It’s become a sounding board where people share ideas, and where these kinds of ideologies are amplified and expanded on, and ultimately, people are radicalized as a result.”
The El Paso shooter allegedly uploaded a manifesto delineating the motives for his intended actions shortly before the shooting, according to The Daily Mail, which added, “The post’s author encouraged users on the 8chan politics board, /pol/, to disseminate the contents of the manifesto.”
8chan is currently run by U.S. Army veteran Jim Watkins and his son Ronald. Jim Watkins lives in the Philippines, as does Brennan. Brennan was an administrator on the site until 2016 and cut ties with the site in December 2018.
Matthew Prince, the chief executive of Cloudflare, which creates software that protects 8chan, among others, from cyberattacks, told the Times on Sunday that if Cloudfare disabled guarding 8chan, law enforcement investigations could be blocked in a deleterious way. He stated, “If we kicked 8chan off our network, the crowds would cheer, and we’d suddenly not be in the middle of this horrible tragedy. But law enforcement would have less visibility into what’s going on.” He concluded, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Graeme Bunton, manager of public policy at Tucows, which runs 8chan’s domain name registration, added to the Times, “We have no immediate plans other than to keep discussing internally.”
In a March interview, after the Christchurch, New Zealand shooting, Brennan told The Wall Street Journal he was sorry about creating 8chan, warning of more shootings that could be triggered by the posts on 8chan’s boards. He stated, “It was very difficult in the days that followed to know that I had created that site. It wouldn’t surprise me if this happens again.”
The Times reported that on Sunday, a banner at the top of 8chan’s home page read, “Welcome to 8chan, the Darkest Reaches of the Internet.”
Brennan concluded, “I’ve tried to understand so many times why he keeps it going, and I just don’t get it.”