El Paso residents place flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Saturday mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

What is the online forum 8chan?

A manifesto posted on 8chan is believed to have been written by the suspect in a shooting that killed 22 in El Paso

An anonymous online forum called 8chan has drawn attention in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio because violent U.S. extremists have used it to share tips and encourage one another. The site suffered sporadic outages Monday after its cybersecurity provider cut off support for what it called a “cesspool of hate.”

WHAT IS 8CHAN?

The online message board dates back to 2013. Under the banner of free speech, it allows users to post graphic and extremist content and doesn’t censor posts.

The site has been linked to violent extremists. Police are investigating commentary posted on 8chan believed to have been written by the suspect in a shooting Saturday that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas.

If there is a connection, it would be the third known instance of a shooter posting to the site before going on a rampage. In March, the gunman in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques posted a rambling manifesto to the site, as did another who injured several people and killed one at a California synagogue in April.

8chan’s founder, Fredrick Brennan, is no longer running the site. In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, he said the site wasn’t doing any good and called for it to be shut down.

READ MORE: El Paso suspect appears to have posted anti-immigrant screed

WHY DID 8CHAN GO DOWN?

The site went down briefly after security provider Cloudflare said it would stop supporting the site. Without Cloudflare, the site was vulnerable to outside hackers who shut down the site.

“8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote. “They have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths.”

CAN 8CHAN BE SHUT DOWN?

8chan’s popularity rose after the similarly named but unaffiliated site 4chan cracked down on more extreme posts. Because the U.S. doesn’t specifically outlaw domestic terrorism the way it does foreign-sponsored extremism, such sites enjoy broad protection from government oversight under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Even if that weren’t the case, content on sites like 8chan are also difficult to stamp out because users can simply move on if moderators grow stricter or if a site shuts down.

“Dealing with incitement to violence and hatred online goes well beyond any one platform,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Oren Segal said.

“These hate and racist posts will find another way to get their message out and another site with less scruples will pop up to host them,” added Tim Bajarin, a technology columnist and president of Creative Strategies. “The internet has always been a Wild, Wild West medium with very little controls to keep this type of harmful commentary from seeing the light of day.”

READ MORE: Life in public-shooting-era America: ‘You can’t just not go’

WHAT ABOUT REGULATION?

Mutale Nkonde, a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard, said it’s time to think about creating a legal definition for harmful speech that could be regulated.

“We need to seriously balance do we want to be secure as a nation and have the ability to go to Walmart or we want to protect the speech of those who want to destroy our country from within?” she said.

But there has been resistance to passing legislation, said David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression and a University of California-Irvine law professor.

“It’s very difficult to get any kind of law adopted in the United States,” Kaye said. “Even after these terrible crimes and the connection the 8chan forum has to them, I don’t see much of a likelihood of a pretty serious debate about how the companies should be regulated.”

Kaye said that in the absence of U.S. government action on online speech, the most Americans can hope for is that companies like Cloudflare are transparent about their policies regarding hate speech — and what should be regarded as incitement to violence and not tolerated.

“There is probably horrible content that’s being hosted by its clients in other parts of the world,” he said, “but is it applying the same measures there?”

___

The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre back with Frozen Jr.

The theatre group is performing eight public shows starting Jan. 29

Vanderhoof business owners appealing to BC Assessment on substantial property tax increases

Several business owners in Vanderhoof are making an appeal to BC Assessment,… Continue reading

Coastal GasLink work camp in Vanderhoof gets approved by the ALC

The work camp behind the Vanderhoof airport was first rejected by the commission in October last year

Vanderhoof post office closed until further notice

There will be no mail going in or out of the Vanderhoof… Continue reading

Nak’azdli and UNBC form partnership to preserve inter-generational stories

“Stories can empower. Stories can bring people together. Stories can be instructive,”… Continue reading

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

Most Read