Jim Watkins, the current owner of the notorious website 8chan, issued a statement via YouTube addressing the site’s inability to surface back online to mainstream audiences.
In the video -- which is almost eight minutes long and has a bust of Benjamin Franklin wearing sunglasses in the corner while a trumpet plays Taps -- Watkins lashes out at the media, law enforcement, the U.S. government and other companies over his site remaining dark.
U.S. Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson and Ranking Member Mike Rogers sent a letter to Watkins Tuesday, summoning him to Congress to “answer questions on the site’s extremist content.”
Watkins responded on the official 8chan Twitter account by posting a photo of an email that appears to be a response to the summons, saying he was “on his way back to America as we speak” and that while he has extensive travel plans he is “always available to talk…by telephone.”
“Rest assured I am not an extremist,” the email says.
8chan went offline Monday after its network and security provider, Cloudflare, terminated service after reports that the El Paso gunman posted a ‘manifesto’ to the site just before the shooting.
On Tuesday, content distribution network BitMitigate, which was acquired by company Epik earlier this year, released a statement saying that they would no longer be providing services for 8chan due to "concern of inadequate enforcement and the elevated possibility of violent radicalization on the platform."
Watkins alleges in the video that the gunman uploaded his manifesto on Instagram, not on 8chan as reported – and that “law enforcement was made aware of this.”
A spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, told CTV News.ca in an email Tuesday that they “have found nothing that supports that theory” in their investigation that has been ongoing since Saturday, and they are working with law enforcement.
The spokesperson also said that Instagram had disabled the account associated with the shooter on the weekend and that it had not been active in over a year.
In the rest of the video, Watkins lists his many grievances against those who view 8chan as the breeding ground for radicalism.
“We have never protected illegal speech as it seems we are accused of by some less than credible journalists,” says Watkins, adding that he and his employees have always cooperated with law enforcement requests.
8chan has long touted itself as a paragon of free speech, something Watkins reiterates in his video statement, saying “ours is one of the last independent companies that offers a place you may write down your thoughts free from having to worry about whether they are offensive to one group or another.”
“8chan is an empty piece of paper for writing…a peacefully assembled group of people talking,” Watkins says, denying accusations that his website and its community have contributed to acts of violence, and alleging “insanity” is the issue.
A cartoon posted on the official 8chan Twitter account appears to blame Cloudflare for the ‘death’ of free speech, with a large knife poised over the bloody dissection of the 8chan logo, a pool of blood spelling out ‘free speech’ in the corner.
Since Cloudflare and internet service provider Voxility have both terminated services for 8chan and their new respective hosts BitMitigate/Epik, they have failed to find a service that will allow them to come fully back online.
Former owner and creator of 8chan Fredrick Brennan, who is no longer affiliated with the site, posted on Twitter that “the only ones who will suffer from 8chan going down are mass shooters who planned to use it as a platform and Jim Watkins.”
One of the site’s administrator ‘Ron’ who goes by @CodeMonkeyZ on Twitter, has kept 8chan’s users up to date with their efforts to come back online – but it appears for more internet savvy users who are comfortable using onion routers and Tor browsers, which allow for anonymous, encrypted and difficult to trace communication over a computer network, there is a “hidden service” with access to the site.
Tucows, the company 8chan uses as the domain name registrar, also terminated service with the site Monday, according to New York Times’ technology columnist Kevin Roose.
Stanford researcher Alex Stamos, who has been tracking 8chan and The Daily Stormer’s efforts to come back online, said on Twitter that BitMitigate/Epik has moved to the Chinese service, security and domain name provider DNSPod Inc. after Voxility terminated them Monday, but the site has yet to resurface.August 7, 2019
��BREAKING��: Homeland Security Chairman Thompson & Ranking Member Rogers sent a letter to 8chan owner Jim Watkins demanding he come before Congress and answer questions on the site’s extremist content.
cc: @infinitechan pic.twitter.com/8SDSI1rFLj
New BenGarrison freedom of speech cartoon today "Pieces of 8chan..."The social media giants keep repeating, “We’re private companies and we can do as we please!”
post worth a read at https://t.co/g5gNvSVEhR pic.twitter.com/azpXrZv9yS
Currently setting up 5 more onion routes to help ease some of the bottlenecks into our hidden service.— Ron (@CodeMonkeyZ) August 6, 2019
The only ones who will suffer from 8chan going down are mass shooters who planned to use it as a platform and Jim Watkins.
Even 8chan users of the normal communities there can go elsewhere. 4chan beckons for most; https://t.co/NUc7BZICZ3 for others, I'm sure more will pop up.
New: Tucows, 8chan’s domain name registrar, which said last night that it had “no immediate plans” to boot the site, tells me it is no longer providing services to 8chan.— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) August 5, 2019
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