8chan, Megaphone for Gunmen, Has Gone Dark. ‘Shut the Site Down,’ Says Its Creator. - The New York Times
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.”
The site remained on the fringes until 2014, when some supporters of GamerGate — a loose reactionary collection of anti-feminist video gamers — flocked to 8chan after being kicked off 4chan.
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. And it has been an online home for “incels,” men who lament being “involuntarily celibate,” and other fringe movements.
“8chan is almost like a bulletin board where the worst offenders go to share their terrible ideas,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League. “It’s become a sounding board where people share ideas, and where these kinds of ideologies are amplified and expanded on, and ultimately, people are radicalized as a result.”
8chan has been run out of the Philippines by Jim Watkins, a United States Army veteran, since 2015, when Mr. Brennan gave up control of the site.
Mr. Brennan, who has a condition known as brittle-bone disease and uses a wheelchair, has tried to distance himself from 8chan and its current owners. In a March interview with The Wall Street Journal, he expressed his regrets over his role in the site’s creation , and warned that the violent culture that had taken root on 8chan’s boards could lead to more mass shootings.
After the El Paso shooting, he seemed resigned to the fact that it had.
“Another 8chan shooting?” he tweeted on Saturday. “Am I ever going to be able to move on with my life?”