8chan founder hopes El Paso shooting ‘final nail in coffin’
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8chan founder hopes El Paso shooting ‘final nail in coffin’

Fredrick Brennan says he sometimes regrets setting up unmoderated message board in 2013 that is now home to extremists, misogynists, conspiracy theorists

People pray beside crosses with the names of victims who died in the shooting to a makeshift memorial after the shooting that left 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall WalMart in El Paso, Texas, on August 5, 2019. (Mark Ralston/AFP)
People pray beside crosses with the names of victims who died in the shooting to a makeshift memorial after the shooting that left 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall WalMart in El Paso, Texas, on August 5, 2019. (Mark Ralston/AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — The American creator of the 8chan website linked to deadly US mass shootings said Tuesday he hoped the El Paso carnage would be the “final nail in the coffin” for the forum, which he accused of harboring “domestic terrorists.”

Fredrick Brennan told AFP in an interview in Manila that he sometimes regretted setting up the unmoderated message board in 2013 — adding that turning it over to a new owner last year was a mistake.

8chan, which promotes itself as a site devoted to the “darkest reaches of the internet,” is home to posts from right-wing extremists, misogynists and conspiracy theorists.

On Saturday, a young white male suspect was believed to have posted on the site a manifesto denouncing a “Hispanic invasion” of El Paso, shortly before going on a shooting spree at a Walmart store in the US border city, killing 22 people.

“I think this will be the final nail in the coffin for 8chan,” Brennan said.

Fredrick Brennan, creator of imageboard website 8chan, speaks during an interview with AFP in Manila on August 6, 2019. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

“Obviously he (the El Paso suspect) is a domestic terrorist. What else can you call him? He killed American citizens, he hates American society as it is set up,” said the 25-year-old.

“Is it a cesspool for hate? The site is really big but yes, there is definitely a cohort on the site that’s extremely hateful and that is very happy whenever these shootings happen.”

Brennan, a wheelchair user who moved to the Philippines in 2014 for more affordable medical care, repeated his call for the site to be closed, adding: “I should have shut it down when I had the chance.”

Handing the site to former colleague and fellow Philippine-based American Jim Watkins was also something he regretted.

“There’s so many things he could have done… and he didn’t do any of them,” he said, including temporarily shutting the site as a warning to users, instead of only deleting the reported El Paso post.

Cathe Hill wipes tears from her eyes during a vigil for victims of Saturday’s mass shooting at a shopping complex, August 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Brennan believes that the US government will soon have to come down hard on online hate speech that encourages real-life violence, threatening sites like 8chan.

“If you keep having obstinate people like Jim who are just saying ‘We are not gonna regulate ourselves,’ well the government is gonna come in (and) regulate them eventually.

“It might not happen because of this shooting but if there’s another 8chan-linked shooting, and another one, and another one, eventually the Congress is gonna step in. I don’t see any other way,” he added.

Brennan praised the decision of digital security firm Cloudflare last weekend to cut ties with 8chan, which he said would require the new owners to spend a lot of money to keep the site up and running.

The pull-out could leave the site more exposed to hacking attacks.

“It’s gonna be expensive to keep it going and might even be impossible because Cloudflare was so important to them,” he said.

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