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8chan: the hateful far-right site linked to mass shootings kicked offline

The anonymous messaging board has been linked to at least three mass murders including the recent El Paso shooting

By now, you’ll be familiar with 8chan, an anonymous, uncensored online messaging board that’s linked to some of this year’s horrific mass murders, including the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, and most recently, the suspect in Saturday’s attack at Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

A catchall for practically every radicalised fringe group in existence (neo-Nazis, incels, white supremacists – you name it), the site’s users are known to celebrate mass shootings and harbour hate speech. On threads announcing these murder sprees, it’s not uncommon to see users referring to body counts as “high scores” and creating creepy memes praising the killers. In short, it’s fucked. 

Yesterday, the far-right forum had been forced offline after losing its cyber-security protection. Below, we investigate what’s happened, the disturbing history of 8chan, and the ongoing response.


Simply put, 8chan is a website made up of user-generated forums where anonymous users can create and moderate their own message boards, with topics ranging from cryptocurrency and video games to news and politics. 

Created in 2013 by Fredick Brennan as an alternative to 4chan, a forum predominantly for gamers, 8chan promised less censorship of controversial topics and images. While 4chan banned discussion of misogynistic harassment campaign Gamergate in 2014, 8chan’s commitment to free speech saw the site become a central platform for the sexist movement, which began as a harassment campaign (read: rape and death threats) against a female game developer, before quickly snowballing into a more general backlash against feminism and political correctness in gaming. 

Since then, 8chan – which is now owned and run by former US army veteran Jim Watkins – has remained somewhat of an online cesspit for far-right and extremist views – its only rule is that users should not post content that’s illegal in the US, like child porn. Racism, sexism and homophobia is of course allowed, ‘cause, well, Donald Trump

The site’s sensationalism and connection to violent attacks has prompted calls for action by a number of governments – the forum was blocked by internet service providers in New Zealand and Australia following the Christchurch massacre.


On Saturday, August 3, following the massacre at Walmart in El Paso, Texas, which left 20 people dead, investigators found links connecting the 21-year-old suspect to a racist and anti-semetic “open letter” posted on 8chan, discussing a potential shooting in Texas. After the attack, 8chan users were commenting on the incident and its suspect, with many calling the alleged shooter “our guy”, and celebrating the number of victims murdered. 

After the news broke out, cyber security system Cloudflare, a US-based service that provides internet infrastructure services to websites – such as protection against distributed denial of service attacks where a site is flooded with traffic to crash its server – ceased its work on 8chan, rendering the site inaccessible. Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Price said that “8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate”. 

8chan’s site administrator then announced its move to another security firm BitMitigate, a service that has protected sites like neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.


On Sunday, the site’s original owner Brennan said the site should be shut down. “It’s not doing the world any good,” he told the New York Times. Following Cloudflare’s announcement, he wrote on Twitter: “Thank you so much @CloudFlare Finally this nightmare might have an end.” 

Cloudflare’s chief executive Matthew Price, also wrote: “8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate. They have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths,” he said. “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”. 


For now, 8chan remains dark – scrambling to find another service, it ended up on, which advertises itself as a “non-discriminatory provider” with “a proven commitment to liberty”. However, a Stanford researcher called Alex Stamos flagged that Epik leases servers from provider Voxility, and when Voxility was informed, it severed ties with Epik pretty much immediately. 

Prince explained that while 8chan would be stunted by Cloudflare’s action, it will likely rebuild itself, in a similar way to when Cloudflare ceased protection for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site, in 2017. “I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chan,” he warned. “While removing 8chan from our network takes the heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does not address why mass shootings occur. It does nothing to address why portions of the population feel so disenchanted they turn to hate.”

Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook, says that while 8chan has found a new provider, it will eventually run out of mainstream networks to use. “We will see if they find someone else willing to host them before they get kicked off again,” he said. “In the long run, there are a number of web hosts in Russia that charge a lot of money to host content that nobody else wants to host – that means 8chan would ultimately be much slower and much less effective,” he told the Guardian.

But Benjamin T Decker, CEO of the digital investigations consultancy Memetica, argues that de-platforming sites like 8chan will push them further into the dark web, meaning that less people will be exposed to its radical content. “You can think of it as a contagion effect,” he said. “If this is a radicalisation virus we want to neutralise it and bury it and isolate it as deep as humanly possible so it doesn’t affect any new individuals.”

It’s a double-edged sword: while moving 8chan to the dark web will make it less accessible to the average person, it could leave these toxic views to fester in an uncontrolled environment. “In terms of cleaning the stream, it is a positive thing for internet users overall,” he said. “The concerning part is as things go further underground, we could lose some sight of the actual problem.”