Internet infrastructure and security company Cloudflare, Inc. has terminated their business relationship with the 8chan imageboard, alleging that “8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate.”
Immediately prior to the recent and horrific attack in El Paso, TX, the terrorist allegedly posted his anti-Hispanic and racist manifesto to the imageboard. In the aftermath of the attack, many have understandably sought to place the blame on something tangible. While some Republican leaders like President Trump have targeted violent video games, others have turned their focus to 8chan, accusing the imageboard of contributing to the terrorist’s radicalization. This includes Cloudflare, Inc. CEO Matthew Prince, who reasoned that 8chan has “proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths”:
“8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare’s service. We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time. The rationale is simple: 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.
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.”
Cloudflare, Inc. provides websites with various technical services, such as providing protection from DDoS attacks and content delivery networks. This means that while 8chan will not be deplatformed due to Cloudflare, Inc.’s decision, it will be losing very valuable security and support services. Curiously, Prince’s decision appears to run counter-intuitively to the beliefs he put forward in an interview earlier this year with Fast Company:
“Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet. No one should have that power.”
“If you do believe–as we do–that the edge of the internet of the future gets controlled by about 10 companies. If those 10 companies start to impose the values of their leadership on what the internet looks like, I just think that that’s an incredibly risky thing to be doing.”
The founder of 8chan, Frederick Brennan, thanked Cloudflare, Inc. for their decision, stating that “this nightmare might have an end.”
Thank you so much @CloudFlare. Finally this nightmare might have an end. I just want to go back to making my fonts in peace and not have to worry about getting phone calls from CNN/New York Times every time a mass shooting happens. They could have prevented this and chose not to.
— Fredrick Brennan (@HW_BEAT_THAT) August 5, 2019
Conversely, the current owner of 8chan, Jim Watkins, responded to the numerous accusations and associations being hurled at the imageboard in a YouTube video wherein Watkins announces Cloudflare Inc.’s suspension of services and criticizes Prince’s “cowardly and not-thought out actions,” claiming it was “a political move to remove 8chan from Cloudflare.”
“There are about 1 million users of 8chan. 8chan is an empty piece of paper for writing on. It is disturbing to me that it can be so easily shut down. Over the weekend, the domain name service for 8chan was abruptly terminated by the provider, Cloudflare. Some people may applaud that decision, it was made by one of their founders. According to his Twitter profile, he is a recovering lawyer. They are a private company and of course have a right to stop doing business with me. Likely this is because of their intended and soon to happen IPO. Calling 8chan.net “lawless by design,” he decided to terminate us. This is of course an untrue statement. He did terminate us though, so it becomes time to find a new home.
It is actually sinister behavior. Ours is one of the last independent companies that offer a place you may write down your thoughts free from having to worry about worrying about whether they are offensive to one group or another. Power consolidation of the media, beginning as Radio and TV stations were gobbled up by a few strong and rich companies, is now moving at a break-neck pace through the internet. It will effectively silence the masses and leave them with no place to voice their messages.”
8chan has been associated with three deadly terror attacks in 2019: the Christchurch terrorist, the Poway terrorist, and the El Paso terrorist all uploaded manifestos to the site shortly before committing their atrocities. However, while 8chan has been singled out for facilitating these terrorists, no action has been taken against other social media sites such as Instagram (where, according to Watkins, the shooter initially uploaded his manifesto) or Facebook, which have been used to facilitate acts of violence, such as the murder of Bianca Devins, the murder of Robert Godwin Sr., or the killing of three teens in Colombia featured on a “death list” posted to Facebook.
As 8chan searched for an alternative domain name service provider to Cloudflare, Inc., the site attempted to move to Epik, only for Epik to quickly have their contract terminated by their parent company Voxility:
In case you were wondering, it looks like the new host of 8chan and Daily Stormer will effectively be @voxility. It looks like Epik/Bitmitigate owns very little of their own hardware and instead rents Voxility’s servers and AS.https://t.co/K3NXyVYcUThttps://t.co/zC0csJpQZp pic.twitter.com/pml4bL0kUU
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) August 5, 2019
We are all in the same team here! Thank you for the support and for the notes. The 3rd party hoster is blocked completely.
— Voxility (@voxility) August 5, 2019
Users currently attempting to visit 8chan are greeted with one simple word of text: “wat”.