Based Cloudflare Pulls 8chan Offline Following El Paso Massacre

Brennan and Watkins in 2015

Brennan and Watkins in 2015. 8chna Youtube

"Based on evidence we've seen, it appears that he posted a screed to the site immediately before beginning his terrifying attack on the El Paso Walmart, killing 20 people", Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said in a blog post. BitMitigate already had a similar philosophy to Epik, agreeing to host The Daily Stormer after it was dropped by Cloudflare.

With the big social networks doing a better job of moderating hate speech, incitement to violence and harassment, extreme speech is gravitating to smaller websites that are often little more than message boards - sites teenagers routinely make in their bedrooms, said Joan Donovan, the director of the technology and social change project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Frederick Brennan, the creator of 8chan but no longer affiliated with the website, welcomed Cloudflare's decision in a tweet, writing; "Finally this nightmare might have an end..."

After Cloudflare dropped 8chan, the site moved to Seattle-based firm Epik and briefly went back online, replaying a almost identical chain of events from two years ago: In August 2017, Cloudflare stopped providing services to the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. He said that Epik is still deciding whether or not to continue providing services to the site.

About one hour later, 8chan administrator Ron Watkins posted to Twitter that the site was switching to BitMitigate. Because the US doesn't specifically outlaw domestic terrorism the way it does foreign-sponsored extremism, such sites enjoy broad protection from government oversight under the First Amendment.

Terrorists responsible for recent shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and Poway, California have also posted racist and violent manifestos on 8chan. It is not now clear whether 8chan has found a replacement for Cloudflare, but it seems likely that the site's administrators will find an undiscerning alternative soon if they haven't already.

"We have not made a definitive decision about whether to provide DDoS mitigation or Content Delivery services for them".

The El Paso gunman is even reported to have begun his document by saying: "In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto".

Some argue that social media sites like 8chan are like heads of a hydra, and if you shut one down without addressing the root causes driving people to visit them in the first place, another will rise to replace it. The company has only cut service once before - to neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer after a white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Cloudflare's decision leaves 8chan vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks.

"We provide services to ISPs and hosting resellers and as a telco we do not have access to websites hosted by customers of our customers", Voxility also said.

"We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design", Prince said.

As of publication early Tuesday morning, however, 8chan remains online but has repeatedly gone offline. Based on the imageboard, an online forum style originating in Japan, 8chan lets anyone post anonymously to facilitate discussion on whatever topic they wish.

Shooters accused in other mass shootings posted their hateful statements on 8Chan.

A researcher from Stanford posted on Twitter Monday that BitMitigate/Epik would effectively be hosted by another company, Voxility, from whom they rent servers and other services from.

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