Free speech is on the line.
This is not too strong of a statement to make when the New York Times calls on the owner and creator of 8chan – one of the only places available on the internet to really be able to speak one’s mind – to shut down the site because the alleged shooters in mass shooting events post information there that is supposedly hateful, all about white supremacy, anti-Semitic and more.
In recent months, 8chan has become a go-to resource for violent extremists. At least three mass shootings this year — including the mosque killings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif. — have been announced in advance on the site, often accompanied by racist writings that seem engineered to go viral on the internet.
Mr. Brennan started the online message board as a free speech utopia. But now, 8chan is known as something else: a megaphone for mass shooters, and a recruiting platform for violent white nationalists.
And it has become a focal point for those seeking to disrupt the pathways of online extremism. On Sunday, critics characterized the site as a breeding ground for violence, and lobbied the site’s service providers to get it taken down. One of those providers, Cloudflare, a service that protects websites against cyberattacks, said it would stop working with 8chan on Sunday night and the site went dark about 3 a.m. Eastern time. And Mr. Brennan, who stopped working with the site’s current owner last year, called for it to be taken offline before it leads to further violence.
“Shut the site down,” Mr. Brennan said in an interview. “It’s not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realize it.”
In the hours since this article was published, the cloud host for it, Cloudflare, canceled its hosting service. 8chan is in the midst of converting to a contingency host, the same one that took Twitter alternative GAB when it found itself in a similar situation with a hosting service.
What is interesting about these situations, is that these are the social media platforms and chat rooms that developed when people who research conspiracies, both theory and not, started to find each other. And that is something that the Times highlights.
Since GamerGate, 8chan has become a catchall website for internet-based communities whose behavior gets them evicted from more mainstream sites. It hosts one of the largest gatherings of supporters of QAnon, who claim that there is an international bureaucracy plotting against the Trump administration.
Whatever the real reason for zapping 8chan off of Cloudflare, and the shooters just magically being part of the conversations on the platform, the people at the top of the food chain are going after free speech. It is that simple.
And, no, that is not too strong of a statement.