House Homeland Security Committee Demands 8chan’s Owner Testify

The bipartisan request links the site to three white nationalist massacres.

Wang Ying/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

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The bipartisan leadership of the House Homeland Security Committee has sent a letter to the owner and operator of 8chan, the online forum where a copy of a manifesto purportedly written by the El Paso, Texas shooter was uploaded, to testify before the committee and answer for the racist and violent content posted to the site.  

“Regrettably, this is at least the third act of white supremacist extremist violence linked to your website this year,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Al.) wrote, referencing the April shooting at a Poway, California, synagogue and the Christchurch, New Zealand massacre targeting worshipers at two mosques in March. “Americans deserve to know what, if anything, you, as the owner and operator, are doing to address the proliferation of extremist content on 8chan.”

Earlier on Tuesday, in a video uploaded to YouTube entitled “Sorry for the inconvenience, common sense will prevail,” Watkins pushed back on accusations that his site played a role in either the El Paso shooting, or the one that followed in Dayton, Ohio.

“My company takes a firm stance in helping law enforcement, and within minutes of these two tragedies, we were working with FBI agents to find out what information we could to help in their investigations,” Watkins said in the video. “Our company has always worked with law enforcement to help them with their investigations. We have never protected illegal speech as it seems we have been accused of by some less than credible journalists.”

Watkins argued that 8chan is “an empty piece of paper for writing on,” and claimed that the El Paso shooter had posted his manifesto to Instagram before someone else posted it to 8chan. “I don’t know if he wrote it or not, but it was not uploaded by the murderer. That is clear, and law enforcement was made aware of this before most people had even heard the horrific news.” On Twitter, some supporters of the site seized on Watkins claim, arguing that Instagram should be targeted with the blame and shutdown demands that 8chan has attracted in the wake of the attack.

Watkins took over the site in 2015 from Fredrick Brennan, who had created the site in 2013 as a place where any speech would be allowed, no matter how toxic, according to the New York Times. Brennan told the paper on Sunday that he’s since had a change of heart: “Shut the site down. It’s not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realize it.”

Read the committee’s letter below:

 



8chan (Text)

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

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.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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