tech2 News StaffAug 06, 2019 08:47:06 IST
The horrific, back-to-back shootings that took place in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend in the US appear to share something in common: inspiration from 8chan. These attacks, both carried out by white nationalists, were apparently inspired by extremist right wing content that now define the unmoderated messaging boards of 8chan.
8chan, an offshoot of the notorious 4chan, fashions itself as a haven for free speech enthusiasts. It was meant to be a free, unmoderated forum where anyone, with complete anonymity, can say or discuss literally anything. Unfortunately, 8chan is now simply a cesspool of hate speech, violence, and extremist propaganda. Disgruntled white nationalists and people with views too extreme for previously “free” forums and message boards like Reddit and 4chan have found a new home on on the platform.
As noted by the founder of 8chan in a New York Times interview, 8chan “has become a focal point for those seeking to disrupt the pathways of online extremism.”
Fredrick Brennan, the site’s founder, has even called for the site to be shut down. “It’s not doing the world any good,” he says. Brennan himself abandoned the site in early 2015, ceding control to Jim Watkins, a US Army veteran. Before 2015, Brennan made it a point to defend the site despite heavy criticism.
In a rather chilling article on BellingCat, Robert Evans, a journalist, describes exactly how right wing propaganda and hate speech spreads and radicalises users on 8chan. Evans himself is a combat journalist who’s spent the last few years examining how terrorists are using the internet as a tool for radicalising users and for recruitment.
Evans describes how the board has somehow succeeded in gamifiying mass shootings. Shooters’ kill counts are referred to as high scores, users state that 8chan is a “board of peace” – a mocking reference to statements that Islam is a religion of peace”. The El Paso shooter, the Christchurch shooter and the Poway Synagogue shooter have all left manifestos on 8chan, manifestos that were deliberately shared and spread as inspiration for future shooters. The current “high score” is held by the Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, who’s vehicle-based bomb resulted in 168 deaths in 1995.
Calls have gone out to drop support for the site, including to the site’s hosting providers and support structure. Brennan himself has appealed to Watkins to shut the site down, but it doesn’t seem likely that the site will go down so simply and easily. Of the calls, one, at least, seems to have gotten through. Cloudflare, a service that protects sites against attack over the internet, has withdrawn support for 8chan.
Here’s an excerpt from Cloudflare’s statement on the matter:
“The rationale is simple: they [8chan] have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. 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.”
Following the announcement, 8chan opted to switch to Epik, another hosting service. Unfortunately for 8chan, Voxility, another service provider that leases server capacity to Epik, immediately banned Epik and 8chan, leaving 8chan without a hosting provider, as reported by The Verge.
At the time of writing, 8chan still remains down.
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