Six years ago, Fredrick Brennan created the message board 8chan as a haven for free speech. Now, in the wake of Saturday’s shooting in El Paso, he wants the site shut down.
“It’s not doing the world any good,” Brennan told The New York Times. “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.”
Just prior to the massacre in El Paso, a post appeared on 8chan with a four-page message claiming to be from the shooter. Similar posts have been made in advance of the shootings at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and a synagogue in Poway, California, with the suspect behind the Poway attack posting on 8chan before the shooting that “what I’ve learned here is priceless.”
8chan, which has little moderation and boasts freedom of speech, first became popular in 2014 after the rise of Gamergate. In a 2015 interview with Ars Technica, Brennan defended the site’s practices, saying that “anonymity should not be taken away from everyone just because of a few bad apples.”
But in March, Brennan parted ways with the site following the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand and now says that he has tried to persuade Jim Watkins, a U.S. Army veteran who operates 8chan out of the Philippines, to shut the board down.
“I’ve tried to understand so many times why he keeps it going, and I just don’t get it,” Brennan said. “After Christchurch, after the Tree of Life shooting, and now after this shooting, they think this is all really funny.”
Brennan says he hopes that sustained pressure on Watkins will lead him to shutdown the site, as it did when service provider Cloudflare shut down the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer after the 2017 Charlottesville riots. When asked for comment by The Washington Post, Watkins simply replied, “I hope you are well.”