Creator of 8chan calls to 'shut it down' after El Paso suspect used it for manifesto

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(WAFB/Gray News) — One of the darkest corners of the web sporadically went offline Monday after internet infrastructure company Cloudflare pulled support for the website used by the suspected gunman in El Paso to post a hate-filled manifesto.

Photo: CNN VAN

"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. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit," Matthew Prince, Cloudflare CEO wrote in a blog post.

Cloudflare provides cybersecurity and other services to websites that help them to stay online.

8chan is a forum created in 2013 by Fredrick Brennan as an alternative to 4chan, a message board popular with gamers. 8chan promised less moderation of controversial topics and images that were being removed from 4chan. As such, 8chan has become host to child pornography, extremist views and imagery, racism and hate under the banner of free speech.

In 2015, the domain was banned from Google search results for "suspected child pornography."

Brennan removed himself from the website in 2015 and is now saying the site should be shut down.

"Shut it down," Brennan told the New York Times after Saturday's Walmart massacre. "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."

8chan was offline for around six hours worldwide before switching to BitMitigate, another security firm based in Washington. BitMitigate stepped in to get the Daily Stormer back online in 2017 when Cloudflare pulled its services from the neo-Nazi website. Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and "still disgusting," Prince said.

BitMitigate's website says it has a "proven commitment to liberty." 8chan's site administrator tweeted a line from BitMitigate's terms of services agreement that reads, "we leave law enforcement to the experts and will not stop service to any of our clients unless by final court order."

8chan returned an error message after midnight California time, when the security company Cloudflare said it would no longer be provide service. A lack of security support would leave the site open to online attacks that might block access. 8chan appeared to be back online early Monday.

"In taking this action we've solved our own problem, but we haven't solved the Internet's," said Prince.

In the Texas border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire Saturday morning in a shopping area packed with thousands of people during the busy back-to-school season. The attack killed 20 and wounded more than two dozen, many of them critically. Moments before, a four-page message whose author identified himself as the gunman appeared on 8chan.

At least three mass shootings this year - including the mosque killing in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif. - have been announced in advance on the site, often accompanied by bigoted, hate-filled writings.

"8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate," wrote Prince.

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