Frederick Brennan, the creator of “8chan”, saw his forum as a utopia for freedom of expression. He comes back. Before the El Paso (Texas) massacre in the United States last Saturday, which killed 20 people in a Walmart hypermarket, the suspect described his intentions on “8chan”, a forum where extremist ideas are on the street.
According to the Reuters news agency, the shooting was, according to its author, “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” In the aftermath of the killings, Frederick Brennan called for the closure of the site in the columns of the New York Times. “The platform does not do any good in the world,” he explained.
At the same time, Cloudflare, the company that protects web pages against computer attacks, announced that it would no longer work with “8chan”. “The reason is simple,” says the firm on his blog. “[The site] has proven itself to be anarchic, and this anarchy is the cause of several tragic deaths.” Thus, since yesterday evening at midnight in the United States, the forum no longer benefits from Cloudflare services. It is vulnerable to computer attacks and can be offline at any time. Monday, August 5, on his Twitter account, “8chan” explained that there will be “some downtime in the next 24/48 hours, time to find a solution”.
This is not the first time that “8chan” is used by the author of a mass killing. In March 2019, the person responsible for the Christchurch massacre, who killed 51 people in two mosques in New Zealand, posted a message on the platform. On the latter was the link to watch the atrocity live, on Facebook. And the suspect behind the killing of the Poway synagogue at the end of April in California also went through “8chan”. He had posted a racist and anti-Semitic letter.
In spite of all these elements, it is not necessarily obvious to attack “8chan”. First of all, even if he is the creator, Frederick Brennan is no longer the owner of the site, and therefore has no power over maintaining the platform online. On Twitter, the man warmly thanked Cloudflare after the company announced the end of the relationship with “8chan”. According to the New York Times, it is now a certain “Mr.Watkins” who takes care of the platform, with the help of his son Ronald. The American media explains that both individuals resist criticism, although they are called to moderate or close “8chan”. Despite the solicitations of several titles of the press, the “Watkins” did not comment on the situation.
On the side of Cloudflare, the decision was not obvious to take. Indeed, the day before her announcement, the company first explained to the British media The Guardian that she should not stop working with “8chan”. “It would be an incredibly nice feeling to get [this site] out of our network,” said CEO Matthew Prince “But I think it would take us away from the obligation we have and that would encourage this community to always exist.” By “obligation”, Cloudflare refers to the fact that it provides means of protection, and that it does not host the contents directly. So, according to the Guardian, the company has often opted for a neutral position regarding the messages exchanged on the platforms with which it works. Which did not stop him from finally getting rid of “8chan” overnight.