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8chan struggles to stay online after links to mass shootings

8chan in spotlight after mass shootings

8chan, an online forum linked to a range of disturbing content including several white supremacist mass shooters' manifestoes, briefly resurfaced Tuesday morning after it went down Sunday night. Minutes after coming back online, it went dark once again. 

The day after a hate-filled screed allegedly linked to the suspect in the deadly El Paso, Texas attack was posted on one of 8chan's boards, the web security service Cloudflare announced it was pulling 8chan's access. Hours later, an 8chan administrator tweeted that the online forum would be relaunching using the Canadian cybersecurity company BitMitigate.

But that firm soon ran into trouble. Bitmitigate is owned by Epik, a Washington State-based web services company that has gained notoriety for stepping in when far-right websites go down. In November 2018, Epik agreed to provide services to Gab, a social media site associated with far-right ideologies that lost its hosting provider after an avid poster on the site killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. BitMitigate also provided services in 2017 to white supremacist hate site the Daily Stormer after Cloudflare discontinued that site's services in 2017.   

Epik's services for 8chan required the use of servers it rented from another company, Voxility. When Voxility learned Monday of Epik's involvement with 8chan, the company shut out Epik from its servers.

Epik founder Rob Monster posted on Gab Monday night that his company may consider litigation in relation to losing the Voxility servers.

"When the dust settles, we'll review our legal options there," Monster posted.

8chan's operator, Jim Watkins, criticized the Voxility and CloudFlare decisions in a video posted to YouTube Tuesday morning. Appearing on camera next to a bust of Benjamin Franklin, as the "Taps" bugle call played in the background, Watkins said 8chan cooperated with law enforcement after the El Paso attack that left 22 dead, as well as the deadly shooting early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio.

"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.  

Three hours after he posted the video, 8chan once again appeared online, only to go down within minutes. A BitMitigate page briefly showed in its place with a message saying servers could not be accessed.

On Tuesday afternoon, Epik announced in a statement on its website that it too had decided to cut 8chan off, after its initial attempts to provide services to the site. 

"Upon careful consideration of the recent operating history of 8Chan, and in the wake of tragic news in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend, Epik has elected to not provide content delivery services to 8Chan," the company said. "This is largely due to the concern of inadequate enforcement and the elevated possibility of violent radicalization on the platform."

As 8chan attempted to regain its footing Monday evening and Tuesday, it also began shoring up its Plan B.

"Currently setting up 5 more onion routes to help ease some of the bottlenecks into our hidden service," tweeted 8chan administrator Ron Watkins, who operates the site with his father, referring to a version of 8chan that operated uninterrupted on what's known as the Dark Web. Websites on the Dark Web are not accessible via traditional web browsers and cannot be searched, or indexed, by Google and other search engines. 

CBS News confirmed Tuesday that 8chan's Dark Web site is functioning but slow, despite the efforts to "ease some of the bottlenecks." Immediately visible are boards featuring the site's hallmark hate speech. 

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