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.

Just Posted

Voter’s Guide for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford

Check out our voter’s guide for tomorrow’s federal election: Image across page,… Continue reading

VIDEO: Climate change, veterans, tax cuts: it was all there at Lake Cowichan all-candidates debate

All six candidates faced off in the final Cowichan Valley debate of this federal election season

Cowichan T-Birds finish 5th at Bridgman Cup

Cow High contends at Victoria’s prestigious field hockey tournament

Drivesmart column: Glaring fog lamps

I agree with this reader, I also find many fog lamps unreasonably bright

Providence pumpkin patch open Oct. 18 for U-pick

For the first time ever, the folks at Providence Farm therapeutic community… Continue reading

Environment Canada issues gale warnings for western Vancouver Island

Gale warnings in effect for most of Vancouver Island and west coast Mainland

BC Ferries crew member taken to hospital after getting struck by bow doors

Two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were cancelled

Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

Thunberg has turned her protest against climate change into a global movement

Canucks hang on for 3-2 win over Rangers in New York

Vancouver scores three times in first period

More beef products recalled due to possible E. coli contamination

The food safety watchdog has been investigating possible E. coli 0157:H7

B.C. VIEWS: How to get the best deal on your ICBC car insurance

ICBC slowly being dragged into the 21st century

Most Read