- 8chan is an anonymous message board that’s been repeatedly tied to mass shootings.
- Over the weekend, 20 people were killed and more than two dozen others were injured at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas in a mass shooting.
- The shooter is believed to have posted a manifesto ahead of the shooting on 8chan.
- 8chan creator Fredrick Brennan is calling for the site to be shut down. Its current owner, Jim Watkins, has yet to issue a statement.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The anonymous online message board 8chan describes itself as, “the Darkest Reaches of the Internet.”
That’s the first thing you see when you arrive at 8chan. It’s at the very top of the front page.
Below it, a dizzying array of hyperlinked text is laid out across a variety of framed subsections. It looks like a website from 2001, and that’s intentional. It’s low-tech and lightweight, prioritising its function above all else: As an anonymous message board system for some of the world’s most offensive discussion.
It’s back in the news once again because of the mass shooting this past weekend in El Paso, Texas – the shooter is believed to have posted a manifesto to 8chan just before the attack. The same scenario played out with the Christchurch, New Zealand shooter.
So, what is 8chan? And where did it come from?
8chan was started by a man named Fredrick Brennan. “I wondered what it would be like if there were a Reddit-style imageboard where anyone could make a board without express admin approval,” he said in a 2014 interview.
Brennan started 8chan in 2013 as he was coming down from a trip of psychedelic mushrooms, he said in a 2014 interview.
“I was past the peak and was on the tail end of the trip, and I just decided to browse 4chan because that’s what I did when sober,” he said. “I was still tripping pretty bad though so I kept seeing these fractal patterns and I wrote down the words “infinite chan” to remember for later.”
Though 8chan is often referred to as “eight chan,” the numeral “8” is intended as an infinity symbol.
“The logo is a highly simplified ouroboros in the shape of the infinity sign,” he said.
It operates like so many other message boards on the internet, albeit with one huge difference: Everyone is anonymous, and there is no content moderation.
With the exception of DMCA takedown notices for copyrighted or pirated content, 8chan operates as an unpoliced forum.
“In the interest of free speech, only content that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or other United States laws is deleted,” the website’s front page says.
Brennan is no longer involved with 8chan, and has repeatedly, publicly, called for the site to be shuttered.
“Do the world a favour and shut it off,” Brennan told The Washington Post.
8chan largely rose to prominence in the wake of Gamergate, in the latter half of 2014. Pro-Gamergate board members formed the foundation of 8chan’s userbase.
Because of 8chan’s utility as an unmoderated, anonymous message board, the site rose to prominence in late 2014 as 4chan members flocked to 8chan in the wake of a decision to moderate the discussion about Gamergate on 4chan.
“When the GamerGate drama began on 4chan in August 2014, a small 8chan archive board called /burgers/ was created,” 8chan’s about page says. “However, owing to revelations about 4chan’s founder and a subsequent crackdown on GamerGate threads by 4chan’s moderation team, GamerGate posters searched the web for an alternative anonymous discussion board to use.”
At the heart of the Gamergate controversy was a coordinated harassment campaign that started on 4chan, and then moved over to 8chan.
“After either being ousted by the moderators of other websites or having to leave due to server issues, the /burgers/ archive board became a de facto base of operations,” the about page says.
As such, the foundation for 8chan’s userbase was aggrieved 4chan users.
8chan is currently owned and operated by a company named “NT Technology,” which is run by a man named Jim Watkins.
Jim Watkins is the owner of NT Technology, the company that owns and operates 8chan.
He’s a middle-aged military veteran who lives in the Philippines. His son, Ron Watkins, is the main administrator of 8chan.
And Watkins believes that 8chan is a bastion for free speech.
“As long as they are not making imminent threats of harm against someone, their speech is protected political speech,” he said in a 2016 interview. “No different than Trump or Clinton or Mr. Smith or anyone else.”
Watkins lives in the Philippines, and his company – NT Technology – operates a variety of other websites. 8chan allegedly doesn’t turn a profit.
The suspected shooter in the El Paso, Texas shooting over the weekend reportedly posted a manifesto to 8chan before the attack. The Christchurch, New Zealand shooter similarly posted a manifesto to 8chan before the attack in March.
Though 8chan was championed by its creator and owner as a bastion of free speech, it has since become associated with some of the deadliest mass shootings in recent history.
The Christchurch, New Zealand shooting this past May, where over 50 people were killed by a single shooter, was the first major example: The shooter is said to have posted a 74-page manifesto ahead of the tragic attack.
Again, in the case of a synagogue shooting in Poway, California where one person was killed, the shooter is said to have posted a manifesto ahead of time to 8chan.
And this past weekend, ahead of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas where 20 people were killed, the suspect is said to have posted a manifesto to 8chan.
As a result of these connections to mass shootings, 8chan’s security-services provider Cloudflare terminated its connection with the website.
“8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate,”a blog post from the company said. “We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time. The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths.”
On Monday morning, 8chan briefly went offline as it switched to a different security provider – the site remains online as of publishing.