Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt praised the internet security platform Cloudflare for cutting ties with 8chan, a message board website that allowed white nationalist rhetoric to spread on its site.
In an Aug. 5 appearance on CNN’s “New Day,” Greenblatt said, “The front line in fighting hate is really the internet. All of us should take steps to stop it.” He also called on financial institutions and internet hosting companies to ensure that sites like 8chan don’t see the light of day online.
Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in an Aug. 5 blog post that the 21-year-old who allegedly shot and killed 22 people and injured 22 others at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3, “posted a screed” on 8chan before the shooting.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Nearly the same thing happened on 8chan before the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand,” Prince wrote, referring to the March 15 shootings of two New Zealand mosques. “The El Paso shooter specifically referenced the Christchurch incident and appears to have been inspired by the largely unmoderated discussions on 8chan which glorified the previous massacre. In a separate tragedy, the suspected killer in the Poway, California synagogue shooting also posted a hate-filled ‘open letter’ on 8chan. 8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate.”
He added that Cloudflare would not provide a platform to websites “that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design. 8chan has crossed that line.”
“The front line in fighting hate is really the internet. All of us should take steps to stop it.” — Jonathan Greenblatt
According to The New York Times, software developer Frederick Brennan created 8chan in 2013 because he thought the message board site “4chan had become too restrictive.” Over time, 8chan became a hub for internet users who have been banned from “more mainstream sites,” causing the site to morph into “a venue for extremists to test out ideas, share violent literature and cheer on the perpetrators of mass killings.”
ADL Center on Extremism Director Oren Segal told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that even “a thread about fluffy bunnies” will turn into a thread of “hate” on 8chan.
“The fact that 8chan is used as a place to disseminate these hateful explanations for violence is because those shooters know and hope that the users will copycat,” Segal said.
Brennan, who stepped down from 8chan in 2015, called for the current owners of the site, Jim Watkins and his son Ron, to shut down 8chan. “It’s not doing the world any good,” Brennan told The New York Times on Aug. 4. “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.”
He added that shutting down the site would help prevent such shootings from happening “every few months.”
Prince acknowledged in his blog post that deplatforming 8chan would do little to stop future mass shootings or “hateful sites” from appearing on the internet. He pointed out that Cloudflare dropped the Daily Stormer website in 2017. BitMitigate subsequently picked up the Daily Stormer, allowing it to remain online.
“I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chan,” Prince wrote. “While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does nothing to address why mass shootings occur. It does nothing to address why portions of the population feel so disenchanted they turn to hate. In taking this action we’ve solved our own problem, but we haven’t solved the internet’s.”
BitMitigate did pick up 8chan as a client on Aug. 5, only to cut ties with the message board site shortly thereafter.