8chan owner speaks out after extremist site blamed for mass shootings

Accusations have caused 'tremendous damage', Jim Watkins says

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 06 August 2019 17:55 BST
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Gloria Garces kneels in front of crosses at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas
Gloria Garces kneels in front of crosses at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas (AP Photo/John Locher)

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The owner of extremist website 8chan has said those who blame it for a recent spate of mass shootings are wrong.

The site is having trouble staying offline after it has been banned by a wide range of companies who provide the internet infrastructure that allows users to access it.

In recent days, after shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, 8chan has been accused of helping to spread the ideas that animated those behind the killings. In a number of incidents, suspects have used the site to post manifestos and detailed their reasons for carrying out the attacks.

Cybersecurity firm Cloudflare, which provided support to keep the site online, said it was a "cesspool of hate" whose "lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths".

In a blog post in the wake of the two shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Prince suggested the suspect in the El Paso attack had posted to 8chan before commencing the attack.

8chan's owner Jim Watkins has hit back in a video posted to YouTube, claiming that the El Paso gunman posted on Instagram before it appeared on his platform.

"First of all, the El Paso shooter posted on Instagram, not 8chan," he said.

"Later, someone uploaded a manifesto, however, that manifesto was not uploaded by the Walmart shooter - I don't know if he wrote it or not, but it was not uploaded by the murderer.

"We have never protected illegal speech, as it seems, that we have been accused of by some less-than-credible journalists, we have responded with both vigour and integrity every single time that a threat of violence has been posted and information on it has been requested by law enforcement."

Facebook said it disabled an Instagram account on Saturday connected to the gunman that had not been active for over a year, but responded to Mr Watkins, saying: "We have found nothing that supports this theory."

The words of Cloudflare's boss have caused Mr Watkins "tremendous damage", he added, but he admitted they have the right to terminate business as a private company.

"Contrary to the unfounded claim by Mr Prince of Cloudflare, 8chan is a lawful community, abiding by the laws of the United States," he continued.

8chan's founder, Fredrick Brennan, who says he resigned from the website in April 2016, has called for the site to be shut down, suggesting that the current owners do not care about the issues associated with it.

Writing on Twitter about 8chan, he said: "Finally this nightmare might have an end."

8chan was created in 2013 as an alternative to the 4chan forum which had become popular with gamers.

It was launched in response to perceived increased moderation on 4chan and promised less intervention or removal of content.

Removal of Cloudflare's services leaves 8chan open to cyberattacks designed to disable the platform.

At present the site is inaccessible, though Cloudflare's boss believes that it is unlikely to remain permanently offline - pointing to a previous incident where the firm cut off far-right website The Daily Stormer, only for it to reappear online using a "Cloudflare competitor".

Mr Watkins said in the video that he was working to restore 8chan.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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