The internet forum 8chan went offline Sunday after San Francisco-based security company Cloudflare announced it would no longer provide services for the site.
8chan is an online forum popular among white supremacists, neo-nazis and misogynist groups called incels. The most vitriolic is the /pol/ board, a political forum where users often encourage acts of violence.
Writing about 8chan for Bellingcat in April, author Robert Evans said, “the overarching goal of /pol/, held by most of its members, is to radicalize their fellow anons to ‘real-life effortposting,’ i.e. acts of violence in the physical world.”
In the past four months, three people have posted racist, anti-immigrant manifestos to the site before carrying out mass shootings: In Christchurch, New Zealand, Poway, California and most recently this weekend’s shooting in El Paso, Texas.
We just sent notice we are terminating service for 8chan. There comes a time when enough is enough. But this isn’t the end. We need to have a broader conversation about addressing the root causes of hate online. https://t.co/ZsctDpswM5
— Matthew Prince (@eastdakota) August 5, 2019
In August 2017, Cloudflare stopped providing services to the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. At the time, a company called BitMitigate stepped in to provide services. Epik has since acquired BitMitigate.
But things are playing out a little differently this time. As of Monday, Epik also found itself in hot water. Epik leases servers from a company called Voxility, which announced they would no longer do business with Epik.
In a public statement, Epik CEO Rob Monster said, “Our services fill the ever growing need for a neutral service provider that will not terminate accounts based on arbitrary reasoning or political pressure.”
The Daily Stormer and 8chan websites are both currently down.
On Tuesday afternoon, SITE Intelligence Group, a Maryland-based group that tracks white supremacist and jihadi online activity, reported that a version of 8chan was back online on a decentralized, peer-to-peer network called ZeroNet. SITE reported that the announcement, which was distributed on a neo-Nazi forum, claimed the 8chan would now be “virtually impossible to censor.”
Unlike websites which store all their information on one server, ZeroNet spreads data across thousands of users. The “semi-official, emergency bunker” version of 8chan posts can’t be moderated or taken down. ZeroNet can also be accessed using a TOR browser, making it nearly impossible to trace.
Updated Aug. 6, 2019 5:43 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include information on 8chan moving to ZeroNet.
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.