Before opening fire, killing 22 people, and injuring 26 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the alleged shooter posted a racist screed on an anonymous online message board. So did the shooters at a Christchurch New Zealand mosque, and a San Diego-area synagogue. The online board is called 8chan and, as Drew Harwell writes in The Washington Post, it is “one of the web’s most venomous refuges for extremist hate.”

On Monday morning, 8chan went dark. The New York Times reports the outage was not due to the site’s owner or administrator, the father and son team of Jim and Ronald Watkins. 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan joined a public outcry for the shutdown, telling the Post “the board is a receptive audience for domestic terrorists,” but he is no longer involved with the forum. 8chan’s outage was due to Matthew Prince, the chief executive of Cloudflare, a company that protects sites from cyberattacks and allows them to load faster.

In a company blog post, Prince said he decided to drop 8chan because it  “has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate,” adding, “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.”

Some of the objectionable content was posted soon after the El Paso shooting. As Harwell reports, “One of the most active threads early Sunday urged people to create memes and original content, or OC, that could make it easier to distribute and “celebrate the [gunman’s] heroic action.” The screed attributed to the alleged El Paso shooter railed against what the writer called a “Hispanic invasion.”

Cloudflare has previously been hesitant to police its clients’ speech, and Prince called himself “almost a free-speech absolutist,” at a 2017 speaking engagement at the New America Foundation. That position was tested after the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va., during which counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed. The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website and client of Cloudflare, published a post mocking Heyer. That post inspired massive backlash and Cloudflare dropped the Daily Stormer.

“Without the kind of protection that Cloudflare offers,” the Times reports, “8chan can be barraged by automated, hard-to-prevent attacks from its critics, making it nearly impossible to stay online.”

That does not mean it’s not trying. Ronald Watkins tweeted Monday morning that 8chan was moving to BitMitigate, a division of Epik Inc., a web services company that also serves, a social network that’s a favorite of the far-right, including the alleged San Diego shooter. However, as The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, BitMitigate “had its content blocked by its cloud-services provider Voxility.”

Maria Sirbu, an executive at Voxility, told the Journal, “We take a firm stance against hate speech.” It could be merely a brief setback until 8chan finds a new service. The Daily Stormer, as the Post points out, is back online, and Prince thinks 8chan could be too.

“Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting. They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare’s problem, but they remain the Internet’s problem,” Prince explained in his blog post. “I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chan.” Plus, one of Jim Watkins’ additional companies,, sells its audiobooks on Amazon. As reporter Judd Legum points out on his site (as reprinted in The Daily Beast), Amazon’s own policies say it prohibits the sale of hateful content, but it still allows Watkins’ company to sell audiobooks, which in turn helps grow 8chan’s profits.

Ronald Watkins didn’t respond to the Journal’s requests for comment. Jim Watkins, who lives in the Philippines, respond to the Post with a message saying “I hope you are well.”


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