The CEO of web infrastructure giant Cloudflare has announced that the firm will blacklist anonymous online forum 8Chan following the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas. Cloudflare’s service offerings protect websites from cyberattacks such as DDOS attacks, designed to prevent sites from operating normally.
The Hill reports that web infrastructure firm Cloudflare has stopped providing service to anonymous online forum 8Chan in the wake of the El Paso, Texas, shooting. The CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, made the decision shortly after the El Paso gunman was revealed to have allegedly posted his manifesto to 8Chan before killing 20 and injuring two dozen more.
Investigators are researching whether or not the gunman himself posted the manifesto to 8Chan, but if proven true it will be the third time this year that a mass shooter has posted lengthy explanations and manifestos to 8Chan. In a blog post on Sunday night, Prince laid out his reasoning and plans to refuse Cloudflare’s services to 8Chan, stating:
We do not take this decision lightly. Cloudflare is a network provider. In pursuit of our goal of helping build a better internet, we’ve considered it important to provide our security services broadly to make sure as many users as possible are secure, and thereby making cyberattacks less attractive — regardless of the content of those websites. Many of our customers run platforms of their own on top of our network. If our policies are more conservative than theirs it effectively undercuts their ability to run their services and set their own policies. We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design. 8chan has crossed that line. It will therefore no longer be allowed to use our services.
Prince did, however, not pretend that removing 8Chan from Cloudflare’s services would somehow prevent online radicalization stating: “While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. In taking this action we’ve solved our own problem, but we haven’t solved the Internet’s.”
Prince noted that this has been proven before, last year: “Almost exactly two years ago we made the determination to kick another disgusting site off Cloudflare’s network: the Daily Stormer,” Prince wrote. “That caused a brief interruption in the site’s operations but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor.”
8Chan noted via its Twitter account that there may be some downtime due to Cloudflare’s decision but the site did indicate it would find alternative service providers:
Some of you might’ve read the @Cloudflare news already. They're dropping 8chan. https://t.co/FQJrv9wzvn
There might be some downtime in the next 24-48 hours while we find a solution (that includes our email so timely compliance with law enforcement requests may be affected).
— 8chan (8ch.net) (@infinitechan) August 5, 2019
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, denounced online communities for “propelling young people towards violence,” stating: “The Homeland Security Committee has been closely tracking the accelerating pace of online radicalization. I have made clear that hateful ideologies amplified by 8chan and other fringe websites are propelling young people toward violence before law enforcement is able to act. Yesterday’s events were yet again enabled by the echo chambers these fringe websites have created.”
Brad Wiegmann, a DOJ official, told lawmakers at a hearing in May that the DOJ is limited in what it can investigate even if websites such as 8Chan were to report manifestos or worrying comments posted to their platforms. “Even if a social media company was able to report to us ‘this terrorist has put a manifesto’ or ‘this person has put up a thing criticizing various ethnic groups,’ that’s not something we can investigate … solely on the basis of that information,” Wiegmann stated.
The free speech focused social media platform Gab questioned why sites such as 8Chan are under scrutiny following the El Paso shooting, when it has been alleged that the shooter also had accounts on websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Gab CEO Andrew Torba said in a statement: “My question is why is the focus on 8chan? The El Paso shooter also had accounts on Linkedln, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter from my understanding. The Christchurch shooter livestreamed the horrific massacre directly on Facebook and no one called for Facebook to be shut down, or for them to pull their livestreaming service. There are also multiple examples of shootings being livestreamed or shooters posting on Facebook’s Instagram service.”
— Gab.com (@getongab) August 5, 2019