Should 8chan be shut down?

Let me begin by stating I know nothing about 8chan.  I’m only aware of it from the news reports and when I tried to look in the other day, it looks like it has been shut down because of the mass shootings.

According to a NYT article (HT Bilbo):

Moments before the El Paso shooting on Saturday, a four-page message whose author identified himself as the gunman appeared on 8chan. The person who posted the message encouraged his “brothers” on the site to spread the contents far and wide.

In recent months, 8chan has become a go-to resource for violent extremists. At least three mass shootings this year — including the mosque killings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif. — have been announced in advance on the site, often accompanied by racist writings that seem engineered to go viral on the internet.

Okay, but a few days back I read, there have been “292 mass shootings in the US so far this year.”  According to this article, there have been 255 mass shootings this year.

So of the 255-292 mass shootings, “at least three mass shootings this year….have been announced in advance on the site.” Do the math.   That’s close to ……1%.  And of the 1% of mass shootings announced on 8chan, how many only happened because 8chan was online?  Can’t really answer that question, can we?  But I don’t see any evidence for thinking that the three mass shootings announced on 8chan would not exist if only 8chan had been banned.  In fact, that’s strikes me as silly thinking.

Look, once again, I know nothing about 8chan.  I just don’t see why anyone thinks that shutting down 8chan is somehow going to decrease the incidence of mass shootings.

But I did notice something else in the NYT article that could explain the demands to shut down 8chan:

The site remained on the fringes until 2014, when some supporters of GamerGate — a loose reactionary collection of anti-feminist video gamers — flocked to 8chan after being kicked off 4chan.

Since GamerGate, 8chan has become a catchall website for internet-based communities whose behavior gets them evicted from more mainstream sites. It hosts one of the largest gatherings of supporters of QAnon, who claim that there is an international bureaucracy plotting against the Trump administration. And it has been an online home for “incels,” men who lament being “involuntarily celibate,” and other fringe movements.

Hmm.  Maybe shutting down 8chan has nothing to do with preventing mass shootings and more to do with silencing political opponents?  After all, we know just how much someone like PZ Myers despises the anti-feminist incels.  😉

 

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41 Responses to Should 8chan be shut down?

  1. Dhay says:

    > Let me begin by stating I know nothing about 8chan. I’m only aware of it from the news reports and when I tried to look in the other day, it looks like it has been shut down because of the mass shootings.

    Me too.

    If I understand the BBC’s new reports, though, 8chan was not shut down — an unfortunately ambiguous phrase — but was forced offline by DDoS (see below) attacks.

    The owner of the 8chan message boards says “a large community of one million people are now looking for a home”, after the site was driven offline. On Monday, cyber-security company Cloudflare withdrew its protection services from 8chan and minutes later the site was unavailable. … Cloudflare said it had withdrawn its services because 8chan had “repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate”.

    Losing Cloudflare’s protection made 8chan vulnerable to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. The website was bombarded with traffic that overwhelmed its servers, rendering it inaccessible. In response, 8chan switched to BitMitigate, a cyber-protection service owned by a web hosting company called Epik. But then BitMitigate itself was driven offline. Both Epik and BitMitigate relied on infrastructure provided by another company, Voxility. And Voxility decided to remove Epik and BitMitigate from its network. “Hate speech is totally against our service policy,” a spokeswoman told BBC News.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49249574

    If the site owner can get it back online, he will:

    [8chan owner] Jim Watkins said he was working to get 8chan back online …

    Although I, too, despise the anti-feminist incel haters, preferring “…the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.””, I’m with you as regards those who desire to have 8chan actually shut down in the sense of banned.

  2. Ilíon says:

    … the anti-feminist incels.

    Sadly, most “anti-feminists” aren’t *really* anti-feminism (*). Rather, they’re pissed-off because they themselves are not getting the limitless, no-strings-attached, conscience-free f[ornicat]ing that they were promised would ushered-in by feminism.

    (*) as proven by the fact that they are unwilling to conduct their very own lives according to the fact that feminism is built on a false-to-reality anthropology.

  3. Bilbo says:

    I got the impression that 8chan was a place that honored and praised those who committed mass murders, especially against Jews and people of color. I realize that people here might think that’s a good thing. I happen to disagree.

  4. Ilíon says:

    ^ Leave it to a leftist to project the pathologies of leftists onto non-leftists.

  5. Kevin says:

    Look, once again, I know nothing about 8chan. I just don’t see why anyone thinks that shutting down 8chan is somehow going to decrease the incidence of mass shootings.

    I’ve heard that math and logic are tools of the white patriarchy to suppress minorities. So using woke progressive math formulas and logic structures to analyze the above quote, we get:

    “I’m not familiar with 8chan” + “I don’t see how banning 8chan will help with mass shootings”
    =
    “I think honoring and praising mass murders is a good thing”

    Is that about right? Or is there some other justification for accusing others here of thinking praising mass murder is a good thing?

    <

  6. Bilbo says:

    Let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that my impression of 8chan is correct: that it is a place that honors and praises people who mass murder Jews, Muslims, and people of color. Should it be shut down?

  7. Isaac says:

    “Let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that my impression of 8chan is correct: that it is a place that honors and praises people who mass murder Jews, Muslims, and people of color. Should it be shut down?”

    You could say the exact thing thing about any large public forum on the internet. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are full of “praise for people who mass murder Jews, Muslims, and people of color.” Although, to be clear, in 2 of the 3 recent mass shootings everyone’s talking about, people of color, Muslims, and Jews were not the targets. I don’t personally see why that makes those victims’ lives matter any more or less, but it seems important to you to specify certain motivations for mass slaughter as worse than others. Mass killings motivated by racism are a tiny sliver of the whole. There are far more, and far deadlier, mass shootings by anti-Christian bigots than by racists. Should we target sites where people say the nastiest things about Christians?

    But let’s assume that currently, 8chan is the forum where racists feel the most free to say horrible things. If you remove 8chan, then whatever site remains with the least restriction on speech will be the one most favored by racists. So you shut down that site, and racists migrate somewhere else. And so on, until we all live in China. What this line of reasoning leads to is the complete suppression of speech, because “celebrating” mass murders, however disgusting to me personally, cannot be a crime.

    Eminem literally wrote a popular rap song praising Columbine-style school shooters. Howard Stern joked about how the Columbine shooters should have raped some of the female students during their killing spree. What is the logical reasoning behind shutting down avenues for unpleasant speech? How can you justify targeting only a certain kind of hateful speech?

    I don’t think the site should be taken down. It should be monitored (and probably already is) in case a potential shooter actually appears to be planning an attack, or making an actual threat. If the site owner wants to impose restrictions in order to improve the quality of dialogue, then good.

  8. grodrigues says:

    ” Should it be shut down?”

    Why should it be shut down? Bad ideas are fought with good ideas — by bringing them into the light and letting them rot in the Sun of Truth — not by launching Fatwas and creating martyrs. And mind you, I am not making a libertarian argument of “freedom for freedom’s sake”. I am not a libertarian but a Catholic Conservative. The argument I am gesturing towards is a prudential one (for example, I would never make such an argument with regards to pornography, say).

  9. Bilbo says:

    Isaac, I would point out that the platforms you mention do monitor and remove hate speech:

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/04/facebook-google-and-twitter-are-getting-faster-at-removing-hate-speech-online-eu-finds–.html

    I don’t believe 8chan does monitor and remove hate speech. As such, it sounds like it has become a haven for those who believe that Jews, Muslims, and people of color should be killed. If so, then it seems it may have inspired mass killings and may inspire more. I see that as good reason to shut it down.

  10. Ilíon says:

    … hate speech …

    Translation for those who speak only English: “hate speech = speech that is hated by leftists”

  11. Bilbo says:

    “Hate speech” as defined by rightists = speech against white Christians.

  12. TFBW says:

    Okay, so given that it’s a political point of contention, let’s agree not to take any action against hate speech in general. No? Not on board with that?

    That seems to be the difference between the Left and Right in the current climate: they have (and always will have) different tolerances for what gets classified as “hate speech”, but only the Left is saying, “shut it down”; the Right is more inclined to say that the First Amendment exists to protect exactly that kind of thing.

  13. TFBW says:

    In response to the OP, I note that all the groups for which 8chan is noted are anathema to the like of Myers. Both “gamergate” and “incels” are species of anti-feminism, and the others are characterised by being Trump supporters, so it’s all exactly the kind of thing that gets PZ into a frothing rage of totalitarianism. But I’m sure it’s the manifestos which are the real problem.

  14. TFBW says:

    @Biblo: Hahahahahahaha!

  15. TFBW says:

    Is that your best shot, Bilbo? Should I be taking it seriously?

  16. Bilbo says:

    Conservatives vigorously defending Ilhan Omar’s free speech:

  17. TFBW says:

    Let’s cut to the chase. Cite me an example of the Right no-platforming the Left. Keep the time window down to the last five years or so, just to be sure it’s a current thing. Cite me an example of the “Communist Control Act” being enforced in any way, shape, or form. Cite me an example of libel laws being used to shut down Leftist speech in a manner you consider to be contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment. Cite me an example of anyone on the Left actually being denied a platform, or fired for taking a pro-Feminist or anti-Trump or pro-LGBTQMNOP position on anything.

    Show me any example of the Right doing what the Left wants done to 8chan.

    Hit me with your best shot.

  18. Michael says:

    Let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that my impression of 8chan is correct: that it is a place that honors and praises people who mass murder Jews, Muslims, and people of color. Should it be shut down?

    From what I have been able to determine, 8chan was a forum that was visited by one million users. If this is true, I would bet there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of threads where only a tiny number focused on the mass murderers and a few dozen users (at most) praised them (with others condemning them). If I ran the site, I would have deleted those threads and banned the users. But another thing I have learned is that the sole objective of the site, the thread that united it all, was it was supposed to be a complete free speech zone where anything could be posted as long as it was not illegal. If that was its identity, I can understand why the owner didn’t want to start policing it.

    As for your desire to shut it down and control what others say, where does it stop? Is 8chan the only internet site you want to shut down or are there others? I’m sure that if PZ had the power, he would shut this blog down. Would you agree with that?

  19. TFBW says:

    Are you done, Bilbo? I’ll give you a little behind-the-scenes peek at what it’s like when you take a stand for Free Speech against Leftists who want you shut down when you’re done. Be sure you’ve given us your best arguments first.

  20. Bilbo says:

    Hi Mike,

    Neither of us knows much about 8chan. The Anti-Defamation League did a study of it after the Christchurch massacre. It sounds dangerous.

    https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/gab-and-8chan-home-to-terrorist-plots-hiding-in-plain-sight

    They don’t offer suggestions on what to do about it. We outlaw yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Would outlawing calls for violence and killing be that unreasonable?

  21. Bilbo says:

    Here’s an update from ADL after the latest shootings. But again, no recommendations.

    https://www.adl.org/blog/hatechan-the-hate-and-violence-filled-legacy-of-8chan

  22. Bilbo says:

    The ADL does give its recommendations on page 26 of this report:

    https://www.adl.org/media/12480/download

    But as far as I can tell, they do not recommend outlawing online hate speech.

  23. Dhay says:

    Bilbo > Conservatives vigorously defending Ilhan Omar’s free speech: [“Send her back” video]

    One interpretation of that video, an interpretation presented and obviously ‘owned’ by the FreeThoughtBlogs Liberal, stderr, is that the crowd wasn’t Conservatives expressing their genuine views but some sort of rent-a-crowd with a prepared script. You’ll have to assess the evidence presented for that for yourself, if you’re interested, I’m just saying there’s a claim there is evidence the crowd wasn’t what it was purported to be.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/stderr/2019/07/23/send-her-back/

  24. Dhay says:

    > … anything could be posted as long as it was not illegal.

    One Site to rule them all, One Site to find them, One Site to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

  25. Derek Ramsey says:

    @Bilbo

    “We outlaw yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.”

    We do nothing of the sort. You’d do well to read up on the history of this misused and misunderstood statement, as taught by Ken White.

    “Would outlawing calls for violence and killing be that unreasonable?”

    Yes. Your logic is flawed. See the link above.

    I’ll note one counter examples to your silly standard. AOC recently praised Palestinians who riot. Should she be punished for her call to violence?

  26. Ilíon says:

    We do nothing of the sort.

    Leftist *know* that when they make the accusation.

    Leftist SOP is to shriek and accuse, generally falsely, anti-leftists of doing the very things you are doing.

  27. Ilíon says:

    grodrigues:And mind you, I am not making a libertarian [i.e. absolutist] argument of “freedom for freedom’s sake”. …. The argument I am gesturing towards is a prudential one (for example, I would never make such an argument with regards to pornography, say).

    An interesting difference between moral “absolutists” and moral “relativists” is that —

    1) the “absolutists” are generally able to make a prudential comparison of the anticipated cost of suppressing some particular moral evil, compared to the anticipated benefit of said suppression, compared to the anticipated cost of tolerating the moral evil … and come to the conclusion that it’s better for society to tolerate this specific moral evil than to suppress it with force/violence.

    2) whereas, for the “there is no right or wrong” crowd, the moral evils they like must be celebrated, and the moral goods they have must be suppressed with violence.

  28. Isaac says:

    Do people really think that the Trump crowd “send her back” chant was actually a racist thing? As in, the people chanting it just didn’t think that a Somalian should be a congressperson, and actually wanted to ship her back to Africa because of that? As in, they would have chanted the same thing if Omar were a Republican who loved America and didn’t hate Jews, because they just don’t like foreigners? I understand why the Left would want to frame it that way (which is why such a chant is a stupid idea) but are there really people who believe it that way?

  29. Kevin says:

    Yes, there are. The same people who believe criticizing Baltimore’s rat problem is racist, if it is associated with Trump at least.

  30. TFBW says:

    Today, James Watkins appears for a congressional deposition addressing your Committee’s concern over social media companies’ efforts to address online extremist content. We have prepared this statement in an effort to assist the Committee in understanding how careful and responsible a platform 8chan is. While Mr. Watkins is empathetic to the victims of mass shootings in America, 8chan has never tolerated illegal speech and has a consistent track record of working with law enforcement agencies when appropriate.

    For those who want to hear what 8chan has to say about itself (presumably under penalty of perjury, or similar), rather than what others say about it, here’s a link to a prepared statement (PDF) that the organisation submitted to the Congressional Committee on Homeland Security. The short-short version is that they aim to be an “imageboard fully compatible with the First Amendment,” while working with law enforcement agencies to deal with posts that fall outside that protection. I’ve never used the platform, but it sounds fine in principle. Like a lot of these things, one’s attitude to 8chan seems like a litmus test for one’s actual (rather than merely stated) belief in the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

  31. Ilíon says:

    It seems to me that getting people to think about “freedom of expression”, rather that “freedom of speech”, was an important first step is getting us to where we are today … where the speech committed by non-leftists is “violence”, but the violence committed by leftists is “expression”.

  32. TFBW says:

    Freedom of speech is one freedom of expression recognised the First Amendment. It protects five things: religion, speech, publication (the press), petition, and peaceable assembly. However, you are right to point out that Leftists try to call speech and other forms of non-violent expression “violence”. I suggest that the tactic is best refuted by calling it idiotic: break the spell by pointing out the emperor’s lack of clothes. Nobody has ever been hospitalised by a harsh word, or needed treatment for a verbal burn.

  33. Ilíon says:

    The Founders of the American Republic — which number is not limited to the handful of men who comprised the Continental Congress, and later the Constitutional Convention — the very people who wrote and/or ratified the 1st Amendment, whom one expects to have understood exactly what they meant by it, did not consider the suppression of, say, public nudity, to be a violation of the freedom of speech. Yet, by the magic of transmogrifying “freedom of speech” to “freedom of expression”, we have arrived at the Bizarro-world we now inhabit.

  34. Dhay says:

    TFBW > Nobody has ever been hospitalised by a harsh word, or needed treatment for a verbal burn.

    A former colleague put the contrary view quite nicely; speaking in the context of bullying at school — but it generalises — he pointed out that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is altogether too glib: be verbally nasty enough for long enough and the victim will harm themselves; that might include loss of self-esteem, clinical depression, cutting, suicide.

    Less dramatically, be nasty enough to me for long enough and I will suffer — suffer — from stress; or if I and others denigrate a colleague long enough, hard enough and publicly enough their promotion prospects may suffer, their income and their family’s welfare likewise; or [multiply examples yourself here.]

  35. Kevin says:

    Bullying actually is a form of violence, as it is intended to hurt. It’s only purpose for existing is to cause pain. I think what TFBW is talking about is more like what the “transgender” movement and allies say about people who refuse to agree that a man is a woman if the man claims to “identify” as a woman. Refusing to go along with that falsehood is considered by them to be violence, an attack on “who they are”. They’re trying to shut down disagreement by making it either illegal or so frowned upon by society that disagreeing with them will ruin your life.

    We see similar sentiments expressed pretty much any time a conservative speaks on a college campus. Simply not being a progressive is considered to be a violent threat to student safety in matters of race, sex, and whatever other demographic checkboxes they hold in favor. They don’t “feel safe” with other opinions around, ergo it is violence.

  36. Ilíon says:

    Sort of how Zoe Quinn’s recent (vague) accusations of sexual something-or-other against Alec Holowka seemingly pushed him over the edge?

  37. Ilíon says:

    “They don’t “feel safe” with other opinions around, ergo it is violence.”

    They are “cry-bullies”

  38. TFBW says:

    @Dhay: much as I’d love to get into a deep discussion about the proper extents of lawful speech, this is probably not the right venue for it. I do note, however, that shunning a person and refusing to speak to them can be equally as harmful as speaking to them harshly—solitary confinement is a particularly extreme form of punishment (over and above confinement itself)—so it’s not exactly the words that are the weapon, is it? Humans are social animals, and our perception of our own social status is inextricably tied to our mental well-being. Jordan Peterson covers this subject well: it’s his infamous “lobster” subject.

    That being said, perhaps we can agree that it is important to be able to speak freely about abstract ideas. This is where the Far Left, led by the Cult of Intersectionality, is equating words with harm. There is actually a coherent reason for this, which is noteworthy, given how incoherent the movement is as a whole. The Cult of Intersectionality doesn’t really recognise the existence of individual persons; merely intersecting sets of “identities”, where an “identity” consists of something such as one’s race, biological sex, gender expression, sexual proclivity, and possibly religion. To the Cult of Intersectionality, therefore, criticism of a particular “identity” is equal to a verbal attack against all individual members of that group. In saying this, I should point out that although the Cult of Intersectionality will howl about some such “attacks”, it’s not the “attacks” in and of themselves which are the issue: they are absolutely fine with “attacks” against straight, white, Christian men, because those identities have “privilege”, but that’s a whole different essay. For now, I want to focus on the tactic of equating abstract ideas with people, so that criticism of abstract ideas becomes equivalent to a verbal attack on people.

    I’ll give a specific example of this, and I’ll go with the flow of Kevin’s comment, since it points us in the right general direction. We are at a stage now where describing transgender people as suffering from a delusion is considered “hate speech” by YouTube, and will get your video banned, ostensibly for the “harm” it causes to transgender individuals. I can’t link to a banned video, obviously, but here is an example of a video discussing such a ban, with a link to a third-party copy of the banned video. My apologies if that link also goes dead, since YouTube will often crack down on things which link to things they have banned. They lean totalitarian like that: it’s not sufficient that they merely not be hosting the offending content (which is their prerogative as a publisher); they really want to control what you see so that they might influence what you think.

    Going back to the question of the personal discomfort that words can cause, there are two broad attitudes which one can have to the problem: one can say that harsh words are a cruelty from which people should be protected, or that harsh words are a trial which we should overcome by building personal strength. I will call these left-leaning and right-leaning attitudes. Neither is unequivocally “correct”: it is better to be strong than to be protected, but not everyone has the capacity to be sufficiently strong in the face of all adversity, so the strong also have a duty to protect the weak. That being said, this particular attack on freedom of speech is much more obvious to right-leaning people than left-leaning people, because the attack is couched in terms of harm from which people must be protected, and that naturally seems like a good thing to the left-leaning mindset.

    I am an individual who started out life as a snowflake; easily hurt by words, and lacking basic control over my emotional responses. I have become much stronger over time, and am extremely glad that it is so. As you might expect, I lean right on this issue: the threat to me is obvious, not only in terms of the attack on the freedom to speak one’s mind, but the possible detrimental effects of promoting widespread societal weakness through over-protection (a state of affairs which seems already advanced beyond remedy in many universities).

    I’m not sure how to convey this threat to the left-leaning mindset. Perhaps someone who is inclined that way has some thoughts on the subject.

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