Updated Aug 5, 2019

Cloudflare pulls 8chan support after El Paso shooting

A memorial outside Walmart, near the scene of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince announced Sunday the company was pulling support for 8chan at midnight Pacific time following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this weekend.

Context: Moments before the El Paso shooting on Saturday morning, an anti-immigrant screed encouraging others to spread the message apparently posted by the suspect appeared on 8chan, per the New York Times. Prince said in a blog post it appears the suspect was inspired by the online forum.

The big picture: In his blog post, Prince noted the El Paso shooting was not an isolated incident. "Nearly the same thing happened on 8chan before the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand," he said, referring to the March 15 attack on 2 Christchurch mosques that killed 51 people.

"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. ... 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."

Flashback: Per Axios' Kim Hart, this isn't the first time Prince has intervened.

  • In 2017, he decided the company would cut off white supremacist website The Daily Stormer in the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Virgina, violence, causing the site to go down.
  • In a later interview with Axios, Prince indicated he hoped his company would not have to be in the position to make that kind of judgement call again.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more context and comments from Prince.

Go deeper: 8chan founder calls forum a "receptive audience for domestic terrorists"

Go deeper

Homeland Security Committee calls on 8chan owner to testify after mass shootings

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The bipartisan leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday sent to a letter to Jim Watkins, owner and operator of the anonymous forum 8chan, asking him to testify about his efforts to "investigate and mitigate the proliferation of extremist content" on his website.

Why it matters: The letter notes that there have been at least three acts of white supremacist violence linked to 8chan this year, including the mass shooting in El Paso this weekend. On Monday, 8chan's network service operator Cloudflare called the website a "cesspool of hate" before shutting down its services. The founder of 8chan has also called for the site to be shut down, labeling it a "receptive audience for domestic terrorists" after the suspected El Paso terrorist posted an anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan's message board hours before opening fire.

What to do about 8chan, the net's atrocity megaphone

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The apparent posting of a racist manifesto by the suspect in the El Paso mass shooting has raised a new outcry over the role of 8chan, an anonymous chat site, in fomenting violent hate crimes.

  • 8chan was also the message board where the perpetrators of March's Christchurch mosque shootings and April's San Diego synagogue attack chose to post their manifestos.

Why it matters: The internet was built by true believers of free speech and has flourished by "assuming good intentions." But the combination of anonymous hate-mongering and abundant guns in the U.S. has weaponized the online world way beyond the level of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater.

Go deeperArrowAug 5, 2019

White House invites tech companies to discuss "violent extremism online"

Trump makes remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House after the El Paso shooting.Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The White House has asked unnamed "internet and technology companies" to attend a meeting with staff and senior administration officials on Friday about "violent extremism online," an administration spokesperson said Wednesday.

Why it matters: The invitation, which was first reported by Politico, comes in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in which the suspected gunman allegedly posted an anti-immigrant manifesto on the online forum 8chan. The cybersecurity provider Cloudflare has stopped working with 8chan, which has been linked to mass shootings this year in El Paso, New Zealand and San Diego.

Go deeper: What to do about 8chan, the net's atrocity megaphone