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8chan owner tells Congress that he won’t delete hate speech from the site

8chan owner Jim Watkins
8chan owner Jim Watkins YouTube

8chan owner Jim Watkins is scheduled to meet with the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday morning, and his prepared statements reveal that 8chan has no plans to delete hate speech from its platform. 

“My company has no intention of deleting constitutionally protected hate speech,” Watkins will say in his prepared statement. “I feel the remedy for this type of speech is counter speech, and I’m certain that this is the view of the American justice system.” 

Watkins and 8chan came under fire after the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, since the El Paso shooter was active in the online image board and even posted a premature “manifesto” containing white supremacist views, racism, and hateful speech. 

The House Homeland Security Committee subpoenaed Watkins on August 14 to testify before lawmakers about 8chan’s role in mass shootings and white supremacist-inspired attacks. 

In his prepared statement, Watkins condemned only certain types of hate speech.

“8chan recognizes that small categories of unprotected speech exist outside the purview of the First Amendment. These include categories like child pornography, ‘fighting words,’ and ‘true threats.’ Where speech posted on 8chan falls outside the recognized protection of the First Amendment, 8chan takes action to remove it or to work with law enforcement requests to unmask the identity of a poster of unprotected speech,” he said. 

The statement provides examples of illegal content that was removed from the site in 2019, including 92 discussion boards and 132,874 posts, along with 47,585 users who were banned. 

8chan is currently offline, but Watkins said in his statement that it’s the only platform “featuring a full commitment to free speech.” 

“8chan encourages vigorous debate, discussion, and changed opinions as a result of interacting through its image boards. Unlike platforms like Facebook or Twitter, there are no “speech police” to shut down poorly formed opinions, popular conspiracy theories, or hateful monologues.” 

The image board has become known to be a radicalization tool for terrorists that often glorifies racism, misogyny, and more. Even 8chan’s original creator, Fredrick Brennan, told the New York Times after the back-to-back August mass shootings that he wants the site to go.

“Shut the site down,” Brennan said. “It’s not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there.”

Cloudflare cut off 8chan from its hosting support after the August shootings, saying in an August 5 blog post, “The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths.” 

While 8chan has loose rules on hate speech, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are tightening their policies even further on hate speech content. On Tuesday, YouTube announced that it removed more than 30,000 videos last month that contained hate speech content and that it plans to update its current harassment policy. 

In July, Twitter expanded its rules to ban hateful conduct made against religious groups, and Facebook expanded a ban on white nationalism in the spring. 

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