What is 8chan and Why Was it Banned?

what is 8chan

Last year, we introduced you to the intricate world of fringe social platforms. Last week, one of those very platforms was taken offline when Cloudfare, a cybersecurity and website infrastructure company pulled support for the site. 

The platform in question is anonymous discussion board 8chan, also known as Infinitychan. The site was linked to mass shootings in New Zealand and the United States, but was only dropped by Cloudflare Sunday evening, after the deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas. 

In a post published to the Cloudflare blog, Cloudflare CEO defended his decision to terminate service for 8chan, stating that the suspected terrorist gunman appears to have been inspired by the forum website known as 8chan. 

The Sunday night after the tragic back-to-back mass shootings, 8chan was moved to a new domain host: Washington-based web services provider Epik.com, a company that calls itself “the Swiss bank of domains” and is also host to Gab. 8chan later experienced intermittent outages after ultimately being dropped by Epik. 

8chan vs 4chan

8chan, which calls itself “the darkest reaches of the Internet” was created as an alternative to 4chan in 2013. The bulletin board site garnered attention in mainstream media during the Gamergate controversy and in reference to the QAnon conspiracy. 

Former 4chan users made their way to 8chan after topics such as “Gamergate” were banned from 4chan. The site practices minimal administration, with the responsibility of moderation solely on the owner of each message board. This has enabled it to become what Cloudflare CEO describes as a “cesspool of hate.” The site’s founder even admits the content on the site is “reprehensible” and decided to finally resign from the company in 2018, after the Christchurch mosque shooting.

From 8chan to Mainstream 

A Storyful analysis found the manifesto connected to the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, had been shared hundreds of times on mainstream platforms, with a potential reach of hundreds of thousands of people. 

The manifesto was posted to 8chan shortly before the shooting began. The document, titled The Inconvenient Truth, was attached to a message on the Politically Incorrect 8chan board. The hateful post described an “invasion” of Hispanics and cited an effort to “reclaim” the US. 

Mass shootings and Fringe Social Media

This is not the first time 8chan has been linked to tragedy. The Anti-Defamation League has tied the site to a rise in online extremism. The Christchurch shooter had posted to 8chan prior to the attack in New Zealand in March 2019. And in April 2019, the suspected killer in the Poway, California synagogue shooting posted a hate-filled open letter on 8chan.

Unfortunately, 8chan is not the only fringe platform to be implicated in a temporary ban following a mass shooting. Moments before eleven people were shot dead last October inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the shooter had posted his final words of anti-Semitic rage to the two-year-old social media site, Gab.