Traders pause for a moment of silence for the victims of recent gun violence, on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the US, August 5 2019. Picture: REUTERS/BRENDAN McDERMID
Traders pause for a moment of silence for the victims of recent gun violence, on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the US, August 5 2019. Picture: REUTERS/BRENDAN McDERMID

Tokyo — Cloudflare, a US internet firm that helps websites protect and distribute content, says it is terminating support for 8chan after the gunman in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, allegedly drew inspiration from members in the online messaging forum.

The 8chan site is currently offline. The site tweeted early on Monday that there “might be some downtime in the next 24-48 hours while we find a solution”.

In a strongly worded message on the company blog, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince condemned 8chan as a “cesspool of hate” and said his company would discontinue the site’s service at midnight Pacific Time. The shooting at the weekend was preceded by a manifesto published on 8chan, allegedly by the attacker. Earlier in the year, the Christchurch, New Zealand and Poway, California terrorist incidents were also allegedly linked to conversations on 8chan.

People hold up their phones during a prayer and candle vigil organised by the city after a shooting left 20 people dead in El Paso, Texas, the US, August 4 2019. Picture: MARK RALSTON / AFP
People hold up their phones during a prayer and candle vigil organised by the city after a shooting left 20 people dead in El Paso, Texas, the US, August 4 2019. Picture: MARK RALSTON / AFP

Prince’s statement comes as Cloudflare is planning an initial public offering later in 2019.

“Cloudflare’s move terminating its cybersecurity and other services means 8chan could be exposed to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, in which hackers take down a site by flooding it with fake traffic,” a report said on Monday.

“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths,” said Prince in the blog post.

8chan founder Fredrick Brennan — who no longer runs the website — echoed those comments in an interview on Sunday, saying “Shut the site down.”

Though both Brennan and Prince’s Cloudflare have previously advocated free speech justifications for the creation and maintenance of fringe online communities, Brennan said that 8chan is “not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there.”

The Cloudflare CEO urged a wider conversation about the spread of hateful messages online in the wake of two mass shootings in the US over the weekend, leaving about 30 dead.

“In taking this action,’ Prince wrote, ‘we’ve solved our own problem, but we haven’t solved the internet’s.”

Bloomberg