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Tech Company Knocks 8chan Offline in Light of El Paso Shooter's Manifesto

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Tech Company Knocks 8chan Offline in Light of El Paso Shooter's Manifesto

2019-08-06 16:24:551 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Cloudfare logo (Image source: Cloudfare)

 

 

The website known as 8chan has been blamed often this year for hate-motivated attacks across the world. Some of those responsible for mass murders post manifestos online at the 8chan website where all is allowed.  

With the suspect believed to be responsible for the El Paso, Texas, shooting accused of also posting a manifesto on 8chan just before the massacre that killed 22 and injured many more at a Walmart, responsibility is being heaped on the website.

 

The author of the manifesto published screeds about immigrants, specifically Mexicans, that he believed were going to soon take the place of white voters, turning the state of Texas blue. 

One of the founders of the website announced after the recent shooting that he'd like to see it taken down.

 

Fredrick Brennan, who founded 8chan six years ago, though he stopped working with the site's owners last December, suggested after the shooting that the site's owners should "do the world a favor and shut it off." 

"Once again, a terrorist used 8chan to spread his message, as he knew people would save it and spread it," he said. "The board is a receptive audience for domestic terrorists."

 

British-based Voxility was the one to eventually shut down 8chan, blocking it from the servers that power it. It also knocked the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer offline. 

"We took a clear pledge in making the Internet a safer place for all, and we would continue to cut entire infrastructure for any part we identify as facilitating mass shootings and extreme hate speech with intolerable consequences," said Voxility executive Maria Sirbu.

 

"Someone needs to get to the core of [these] actions, and today this someone happened to be us," Sirbu added. "Hopefully, tomorrow it will be someone else." 

"These takedowns end up being done on a case-by-case basis, often when there's public attention, as opposed to in a consistent way," she said, noting, "You have so many layers of the Internet ecosystem and so many levers to pull."

 

Cloudfare was an important partner of 8chan's, protecting it against attacks that could take it down. But in the end, it was their decision to take the site down, after listening to months of blowback for their support of the company. 

The head of the company, Matthew Prince, referred to the site as a "cesspool of hate," then noted in a blog post that taking the site down "won't fix hate online. It will almost certainly not even remove 8chan from the Internet," adding, "But it is the right thing to do."

 

He was right, as 8chan quickly found BitMitigate to replace the services it was receiving from Cloudfare. Its rules tend to be more lenient. 

"We leave law enforcement to the experts and will not stop service to any of our clients unless by final court order," reads the company's terms of service.

 

Working well with the 8chan website, the company supports free-speech protections for sites that may receive limited support because of content. It refers to itself as "non-discriminatory," adding that it provides "bulletproof ... protection with a proven commitment to liberty." 

But while BitMitigate offers similar services as Cloudfare, it doesn't have near the server capacity and depended on rented equipment from Voxility, who cut off BitMitigate quickly, with Sirbu explaining, it's "totally against our policy."

 

"As soon as we were notified ... we proceeded with [completely] removing BitMitigate from their network. This was to make a "firm stand," as they urged others with Internet services to take action as well to keep the Internet a "safer place." 

Epik, the parent company of BitMitigate, criticized the "digital censorship" to "incapacitate practitioners of lawful free speech."

 

Rob Monster, who heads up Epik, wrote Monday that they had not solicited 8chan's business, yet they are not helping the site manage some of the technical needs and is evaluating whether they can help even more. 

"We enter into a slippery slope when we start to limit speech that makes us uncomfortable," he wrote.

 

Shifting to BitMitigate's services on Monday, the administrators of 8chan said users of the site could expect minimal downtime, as the servers were updated around the world, referring to it as "just a bump in the road, with a message of, "The heartbeat of 8chan is strong." 

It appears it was not strong enough, as Ron Watkins, the site's top administrator and son of the site's owner, announced later in the day the problems were worse than they expected.

 

He tweeted later that they were strategizing to bring 8chan back online and that if they were going to continue to be deadlocked, he would consider putting the site back up without a shield against cyberattacks. 

This was not happy news to regulars. One poster wrote, "I am skipping work tomorrow to sit on MS PAINT all f---ing day to create a red pill for normies," meaning the creation of shocking memes.

 

"WHEN 8CHAN GOES OFFLINE, EVERYONE'S GOING OUTSIDE AND SHOOTING," another poster disturbingly wrote. 

As of Tuesday, the site was still offline and displaying a network error that explained, "A server with the specified. hostname could not be found."

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