National Police authorities are checking reports that online message board 8chan, used to announce a mass shooting in Texas, United States, was being operated in the Philippines.
PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said the PNP Anti-cybercrime Group is verifying whether 8chan owner Jim Watkins was still in the Philippines and if his group broke Philippine laws.
Watkins has been in the Philippines since 2004 and operates a pig farm outside the capital, according to website Splinter News. The report, published in 2016, did not specify his location.
The gunman who killed 20 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas on Saturday is believed to have posted a 4-page statement on 8chan before his attack, calling it a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
In a related development, digital security and infrastructure firm Cloudflare said Sunday it was terminating its services to 8chan, the message board where the El Paso gunman reportedly posted a racist “manifesto.”
In a blog post announcing the move, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince described the no-censorship site as “a cesspool of hate.”
The site is now run out of the Philippines by US Army veteran Jim Watkins.
“8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare’s service. We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time,” Prince wrote.
“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.”
Other right-wing extremists, misogynists, and conspiracy theorists have posted to 8chan, which does not moderate content.
Cloudflare’s move terminating its cybersecurity and other services means 8chan could be exposed to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, in which hackers take down a site by flooding it with fake traffic.
8chan was offline early Monday and its administrator tweeted that it was moving to a new service following Cloudflare’s termination of services.
Prince said Cloudflare had not taken its decision lightly.
“We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design,” he wrote.
“8chan has crossed that line.”
Shortly before the El Paso mass shooting on Saturday, the suspect named by the media as Patrick Crusius, who is white, was believed to have posted a racist “manifesto” on 8chan that includes passages railing against the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
The author praised the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand, which were also announced on 8chan in a racist manifesto allegedly posted by the perpetrator of that massacre.
8chan founder Frederick Brennan, who has cut his ties with the site, said it should be closed down.
“Whenever I hear about a mass shooting, I say, ‘All right, we have to research if there’s an 8chan connection’,” Brennan told the New York Times Sunday.
“Shut the site down,” he said.
“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.”
Despite Cloudflare’s move, Prince said terminating services to sites like 8chan would not make the internet safer or reduce online hate.
Two years ago, after a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which a woman was killed, Cloudflare stopped providing services to neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
“Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting.
They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare’s problem, but they remain the Internet’s problem,” Prince wrote.
“Unfortunately the action we take today won’t fix hate online. It will almost certainly not even remove 8chan from the Internet. But it is the right thing to do. Hate online is a real issue.” With AFP