Cloudflare Drops 8Chan, Initiating New Ineffective Ritual That Follows Mass Violence

Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince
Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince
Photo: Getty

Following a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday that left at least 20 people dead and dozens more injured, an anonymous forum at the center of the tragedy, 8chan, is no longer protected by the website security firm Cloudflare. The company’s abandonment of 8chan leaves the online shitbox vulnerable to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that could render the site unusable.

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As of publication late Monday morning, however, 8chan remains online but has repeatedly gone offline. It is not currently clear whether 8chan has found a replacement for Cloudflare, but it seems likely that the site’s administrators will find an undiscerning alternative soon if they haven’t already.

Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince announced the decision to ditch 8chan in a tweet on Sunday night along with an accompanying company blog post in which he referred to the imageboard site as a “cesspool of hate.” Cloudflare, which provides DDoS protection and other infrastructure services, previously stopped working with a notorious neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, but it has largely remained neutral concerning the activities of its clients

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The suspected El Paso shooter, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas, is believed to have posted a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan prior to the attack. In that manifesto, the author mentioned the Christchurch, New Zealand, terror attack in March, during which a man livestreamed himself killing 51 people on Facebook after posting about his plans on 8chan. There were also reportedly discussions on the website celebrating the Christchurch killings. The person suspected of killing one woman and injuring three during a shooting at the Poway, California, synagogue shooting in late April also shared a hateful statement about his intentions on 8chan.

“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths,” Prince wrote. “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.”

The decision was a reversal from a statement Prince made to the Guardian on Saturday night—the same night, incidentally, that a gunman killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio. In a phone call, he told the newspaper that he wished he could “wave a magic wand” and make sites like 8chan and the neo-Nazi outlet Daily Stormer disappear, “but I think it would step away from the obligation that we have and cause that community to still exist and be more lawless over time,” he said.

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But by Sunday night, Cloudflare told the Guardian it had switched course and decided to terminate business with 8chan at midnight Pacific Time.

A recent Gizmodo report found that Cloudflare provided services to at least 56 hate groups, as of early July. However, dozens of other companies that provide infrastructure services, such as web hosting, have hate groups as clients and have been far less willing than Cloudflare to distance themselves from these groups or to even address the fact that they count them as customers.

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8chan founder Fredrick Brennan thanked Cloudflare for taking action.

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In a New York Times article about 8chan’s connection to mass shootings published Sunday, and in a March interview with the Wall Street Journal following the Christchurch shooting, Brennan expressed regret for creating 8Chan, which he originally envisioned as a free-speech platform. (Brennan has also espoused appalling views. He wrote an article for the Daily Stormer about his support for eugenics because he believed at the time he should not have been born since he has osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease.)

In Prince’s blog about cutting off 8chan, he mentioned Cloudflare’s decision two years ago to cut ties with the Daily Stormer. That site is still online as it has found other companies that have provided similar services. “They are no longer Cloudflare’s problem, but they remain the Internet’s problem,” Prince wrote. “I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chan.”

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Former senior reporter at Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

We have to address the source of the hatred.

This isn’t a moderation issue. It’s not an internet issue. It’s not a gun issue. It’s not a security issue.

It’s a severe social issue. Sites like this, discussions like this, actions like this... they all exist because there is a group of people that hates another group so much that they are willing to commit and encourage violence against them, and because this group feels like it can get away with doing so. And the more their actions become normalized, the more of those actions we will see.

Mass shootings are on a rise, and the reason is self-perpetuation: the more common mass shootings are, the more likely someone will choose to commit one. The more someone sees others with their ideals taking action, the more likely they will take action themselves.

And the media coverage has been making it worse. On the right, we have the failure to call this what it is: terrorism. And on the left, we have the blame game saying that it’s because of guns, or background checks, or failing mental health standards, or not keeping an eye on 8chan and reddit communities, or social sites not moderating enough.

While all those things are problems, none of them are the problem. The real problem is the hatred, and the fact that people are more and more believing that they can do horrible things to others, and realizing that there is essentially nothing that can stop them.

Part of this is because we have a president that fails to align himself against them. Whether or not the left believe he is a racist is immaterial. Whether or not the right believe he is a racist is immaterial. Whether or not the president is actually a racist... doesn’t matter. What matters is that the racists think he is a racist, they think he is on their side.

Then we have the situation at the border, the imprisonment, the concentration camps, etc. Our government is saying that racism is fine, and violating civil rights is totally okay. And this is not all Trumps fault. It’s the fault of every ICE agent, every prison employee, every cop, every judge, every single person “just doing their job” that didn’t say “no, I won’t violate this humans rights today” and let it happen. And what does this tell racists? It tells them that they are right. They think their actions are just helping the cause.

And the other part is the kind of press they get when they do this shit. Right or Left, the press is like a scoreboard. Every time a reddit community makes the news, every time 8chan gets reported on, every time someone is banned from twitter and the media reports on it, it’s confirmation to these people that they are being noticed. It make more and more of the closet racists wake up and think “huh, I could kill a bunch of brown people too.”

No, I don’t have a grand solution to this. There isn’t a grand solution. But I can say this: everyone, from the president to the press to every regular citizen, needs to think about what they can do to slow this down. To show theses people that they can’t get away with this, that it’s not what people want.