8chan, A necessary fall
On March 15, 2019, Christchurch, a peaceful community on the southern island of New Zealand, was hit hard by a terrorist attack. This attack was particularly bloody causing 51 dead, the highest human cost in the history of the country.
One of the specificities of this attack is the use of 8chan two times, by Brenton Tarrant the author of the attack. Initially to announce his intention to perpetrate the massacre and in a second time to share the link of the live broadcast of it.
The investigation showed not only the role played by the platform in the elaboration of the killing but also the extremist and racist ground it now constitutes. A predictable drift of a forum that had at its beginnings showed rather noble ambitions … or a guilty naivety.
8Chan, the Origins
8chan, also called Infinite / Infinity Chan is created in 2013 by Fredrick Brennan, a former 4Chan user. The site includes several tables of various topics, ranging from cooking to manga, politics, etc. The goal of this new platform was to offer a new alternative without moderation to 4Chan. A libertarian bias that will lead this website to what the internet has darker. In just a few years, the platform will become a site of “rallying a radical right resolutely international, masculinist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigration and anti-Islam” as described in the daily Le Monde. The Washington Post meanwhile speaks of “a 4chan lawless, more libertarian and uninhibited” in reference to some tables relating to child pornography or child rape. In just 3 years of existence, the forum will turn into a no-man’s land, just like what we can encounter in the depths of the dark web. All under the guilty inaction of the new CEO with sulfurous reputation, Jim Watkins.
Jim Watkins, A whole character
In 2015, following the Gamergate controversy, Brennan left the ship 8chan. The forum will then be taken over by Jim Watkins, his long-time sidekick who was responsible for the logistical part of the site.
From this date, the terrorist acts involving the platform will go crescendo, focusing more and more attention of the media on the character at the head of the platform, the ambiguous Watkins.
Former helicopter repairman in the US Army for almost 20 years, Jim Watkins emigrates to the Philippines in the early 2000s. He was involved in multiple projects ranging from the creation of an adult website to a pig farm. Above this atypical career, it is especially the libertarian ambition of the character as well as his desire to maintain no matter what the website, which made him bad press. The latter has repeatedly refused, despite the platform has been a constant relay to terrorist acts, to close permanently. The numerous pleas of the founder of the website, Fredrik Brennan, in this sense never changed a thing. Branding himself as the champion of the first amendment, he stands as an apostle of unconditional freedom of expression, without filter or moderation.
But now,few months after the Christchurch attacks, the future of 8chan looks more than unclear.
What future for 8chan?
It is now impossible to access 8chan. The emotion caused by the Christchurch’s and el paso’s attacks drove Cloudfare, the technical provider of the site, to suspend unilaterally the contract concluded with the platform. Matthew Price, director of cloudfare, justifies himself by saying that “they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. “. He adds, “Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environmehatent that revels in violating its spirit,” he continues. And added that ” 8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate “.
If the decision seems irrevocable on the side of Cloudfare, Jim Watkins seems determined to revive his forum even if, lately, a collaboration with the technical provider Voxility was quickly aborted.
Today a resurgence of the platform seems more than hypothetical. If happen, it will only go with some deep changes in its structure and his way of functioning. But until there, 8chan is a field of ruin and must remain so.