Tech Firm Cloudflare Says It’s Kicking Extremist Forum 8chan Off Its Network

Cloudflare, a San Francisco-based tech giant, announced Sunday it is kicking extremist forum 8chan off its network following reports that the alleged El Paso, Texas, gunman may have been inspired by discussions on the online message board. 

The tech company, which provided cybersecurity and other internet infrastructure services to 8chan, said in a blog post that the suspected gunman in the Texas Walmart attack ― which left 20 dead and 26 others injured ― appears to have “posted a screed to the site immediately before” the shooting on Saturday.

In a press conference Saturday, law enforcement officials said they are exploring whether the suspect posted a four-page violent, xenophobic manifesto titled “The Inconvenient Truth.” 

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident,” Cloudflare wrote in its blog post, referencing two other mass shootings by alleged 8chan radicals in recent months: The terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Poway, California, synagogue shooting.

“8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate,” Cloudflare said in its post.

“The El Paso shooter specifically referenced the Christchurch incident and appears to have been inspired by the largely unmoderated discussions on 8chan, which glorified the previous massacre. In a separate tragedy, the suspected killer in the Poway, California, synagogue shooting also posted a hate-filled ‘open letter’ on 8chan.”

Cloudflare said it had already “sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time.”

Following the announcement, 8chan warned users in a tweet that they could expect “some downtime in the next 24-48 hours while we find a solution.” 

Cloudflare, a major tech company, which provides cybersecurity and other services to millions of sites, said that it had not taken the decision to end its relationship with 8chan lightly.

“We continue to feel incredibly uncomfortable about playing the role of content arbiter and do not plan to exercise it often,” the company wrote. 

Just hours before its blog post was published, an attorney for Cloudflare had said the company had no intention of severing ties with 8chan.

The company “does not believe it should have the power to unilaterally decide what can and cannot stay on the internet, pointing out that even if Cloudflare stopped working with 8chan it could be possible for the site to still stay online,” CNN Business reported, paraphrasing Cloudflare’s general counsel Douglas Kramer.

Cloudflare reiterated this sentiment in its blog post. 

The company noted that it made a decision two years to kick neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer off its network for similar reasons ― but though the termination “caused a brief interruption in the site’s operations,” it soon “quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor.”

“Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting,” Cloudflare said.

Still, Cloudflare concluded its post by saying that though “the action we take today won’t fix hate online … it is the right thing to do.”

“Hate online is a real issue,” the company said, linking to several organizations dedicated to combatting hate, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Gen Next Foundation.

This post has been updated with 8chan’s tweet.

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