A notorious website mainly home to incels, racists, child pornographers and the self-indulgent manifestos of mass shooters is attempting to reinvigorate its brand image and return online after being pulled off the web two months ago.
8chan, an offshoot of 4chan evidently aimed at being twice as awful, disappeared from the internet in August after its host Cloudflare pulled its support from the site.
Cloudflare has a reputation for hosting a number of hate sites (along with more than 19 million other sites that are mostly innocuous) that it defends in the name of free speech but pulled its support from 8chan for “refusing to moderate their hate-filled community”.
“8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said in a blog post announcing the termination of service.
“We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design.”
Multiple internet service providers in Australia had already blocked access to 8chan following a massacre in Christchurch earlier this year, but it was still accessible until Cloudflare took away service.
It wasn’t the first time Cloudflare made the decision to boot a site off their service.
In 2017, the company booted a neo-Nazi message board called the Daily Stormer that engaged in white supremacy and Holoucast denialism.
“That caused a brief interruption in the site’s operations but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor. That competitor at the time promoted as a feature the fact that they didn’t respond to legal process. Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting.
“I have little doubt we’ll see the same happen with 8chan,” Mr Prince said prophetically.
8chan’s verified Twitter account, which lists its location as The Darkest Reaches of the Internet, had lain dormant since September 12, but it rose from the dead on Monday to share a 30-second trailer promoting a new site called 8kun.
Kun is a Japanese honorific used to address young men, while Chan is used for children, particularly girls.
The suffix change could be a nod to a maturation of the site as it “grows up” and returns online with a greater respect for content moderation.
The suffix could also be a sinister dog whistle to teenage boys amid growing concern that the demographic is particularly susceptible to online radicalisation.
The new logo for 8kun is shown in the trailer alongside stormy imagery, which has become part of far-right symbolism thanks to earlier hate sites likeStormfront and the Daily Stormer.
Twitter users have been searching for symbolism in the video.
The significance of the highlighted Q in the 8kun logo and the lightning strike being at the 17-second mark are nods to the QAnon conspiracy theory that The Guardian recently revealed counts one of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s family friends (whose wife also works on the PM’s staff) as a “significant proponent”.
The significance of 17 is because Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.
While the site is not yet up and running, it’s understood it will soon go live.
The site was registered with Canadian domain registrar Tucows last month.
A Tucows spokesperosn, when approached for comment about the domain registration, told Cnet it was the first they’d heard about it and were “looking into it”.
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8chan has cropped up prominently in the news several times this year after the manifestos of mass shooters were posted on the board before they carried out their killing sprees, some of which were streamed online.
The original creator of 8chan Frederick Brennan, who quit the site in April 2016 and makes a point of telling people it is now run by people he has no control over, said he didn’t want to see it return.
ECHOES OF CHRISTCHURCH IN NEW STREAM
The news of a potential revival of the site, in spirit if not name, comes as another shooting was livestreamed.
A man shot two people before trying and ultimately failing to break into a synagogue in Halle, Germany.
The stream appeared on the Amazon-owned Twitch site commonly used for hosting live streams of video games, including first person shooters.
Footage of a religiously motivated massacre in Christchurch earlier this year shared an eerie familiarity with that particular genre of video games.
In the wake of the attack, Mr Morrison announced his government would introduce new laws against the “unlawful showing of abhorrent violent material” to prevent the “weaponising of social media platforms”.
“Big social media companies have a responsibility to take every possible action to ensure their technology products are not exploited by murderous terrorists,” the Prime Minister said.
The eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said last month her office had received 413 reports of abhorrent content since the legislation came into effect in April.
More than 90 per cent of the reports related to child pornography or other sexual abuse material.
Seven per cent was “abhorrent violent content” including livestreams of torture, kidnapping and murder.
Of the 413 reports, some were taken down using existing regulatory powers the Government has, but five new notices were issued to a number of sites to take the offending material offline.
Ms Inman Grant noted the sites “tend to be more far-right extremist sites”.
Do you think 8chan should be banned if it resurfaces? Let us know in the (moderated) comments section below.