The Cops Want to Know What’s Happening on 8chan

The message board reports an unprecedented number of requests from law enforcement.

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American law enforcement agencies apparently want to know more about what’s happening on 8chan.

According to the site’s March 2o19 “Transparency Report,” released Friday, the image board had “received and complied with” 12 requests from the U.S. government and or U.S law enforcement agencies over the course of the month. The site also received two requests from foreign authorities, which it says it ignored. 

The numbers are unusually high compared to the site’s past monthly reports, and they come after 8chan played host to a pre-shooting announcement from the man who New Zealand authorities have said killed 50 Muslim worshipers in Christchurch in March.

The site’s previous transparency reports, which only date back to July 2018 despite having launched in 2013, never indicated more than two requests from U.S. government and law enforcement agencies over the course of a single month. In the handful of past instances where 8chan has disclosed requests made by authorities abroad, it has also said it has ignored them. But unlike Friday’s release, previous reports have named the foreign investigators: Russia’s Roskomnadzor and a Polish cybercrime authority.

8chan did not immediately return a Mother Jones request lodged at the site’s Twitter account seeking further details about its interactions with law enforcement. The account did, however, tweet on March 16 that it was “responding to law enforcement” the day after the Christchurch shootings.

Long before the shooter’s manifesto and other postings appeared on 8chan, the site had become notorious for its often noxious culture and racist and sexist tendencies. The site was created seven years ago by Fredrick Brennan in reaction to what he felt was onerous moderation of the image board 4chan, which itself had gained a reputation for being a cesspool of problematic content.

While the number of government requests 8chan received in March may be unusual, government and law enforcement routinely request information about users and accounts from major internet platforms including Google, Twitter, and Facebook. Those companies also publish transparency reports several times a year detailing governmental requests and the companies’ response. The reports suggest such requests are increasing and yielding more information about users. In many cases, government investigators have accompanied their requests with gag orders that prevent the company from revealing the full scope of what law enforcement is seeking.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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