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

The suspected gunman behind the El Paso massacre is believed to have drawn inspiration from 8chan, an online forum where bigotry is celebrated.

Cloudflare, a San Francisco-based tech giant, announced Sunday that it is removing extremist forum 8chan from its network following reports that the suspected gunman in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, 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 suspect in the Texas Walmart attack ― which left 22 dead and more than two dozen 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,” the post said. “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 that provides cybersecurity and other services to millions of sites, said 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 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 ago to kick neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer off its network for similar reasons ― and 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.

In remarks made Monday, President Donald Trump also blamed internet sites such as 8chan for radicalizing domestic terrorists.

“We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” the president said. “The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored, and will not be ignored.”

Trump also blamed video games, white supremacy and mental illness for the shootings, failing to mention guns or the hateful rhetoric he has promoted as president as potential causes for the violence.

Julian Shen-Berro contributed to this report. 

This post has been updated with 8chan’s tweet and Trump’s remarks. It was also updated after the death toll in the El Paso shooting increased on Monday. 

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