The Brief: Also called Infinitechan or Infinity-chan, 8Chan is an American imageboard website with a history for promoting child pornography, violence against women, and white supremacy. The site was infamously used in the Christchurch terrorist attack in March 2019.

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DEEP DIVE

People thrive on anonymity and the things it enables them to do and say.

Before there was 8Chan, there was 4Chan. Created in the mid-2000’s, the concept seemed innocent enough – a simple, easy-to-use, image-based bulletin board where anyone could post comments and share images anonymously, similar to Reddit. As with many similar chat boards and apps, it didn’t take long for free-speech to devolve into hate-speech.

“Embrace Infamy.” – 8Chan

What started as an incubator of memes, 4Chan made national news when members of the hacking group Anonymous started gathering there to plan pranks. When 4Chan decided to ban Gamergate threads because they were being used to “post personal information and plan attacks”, users moved on to 8chan, a site with even looser moderation policies.

The Man Behind the Screen

8chan was created in 2013 by computer programmer Fredrick Brennan, who described it as a “free-speech-friendly” alternative to 4chan. The Washington Post has described it as “the more-lawless, more-libertarian, more ‘free’ follow-up to 4chan”.

While 8chan was created by Brennan and is run by Brennan, it’s financed and owned by U.S. army veteran, Jim Watkins. Watkins has been very clear when it comes to what is an is not allowed on his site, going so far as to say that he does “not have a problem with white supremacists talking on 8chan.” Without Watkins’ financial support, it’s unlikely the site would still exist today.

Controversial Boards

To own a board, one must either create it or claim it. Due to the “almost-anything-goes” policy of the site, many subjects of these boards range from misogynistic to the most depraved and violent.  It has a board called “/baph/”, which is dedicated to doxing people. On numerous public boards, users have shared graphic images of children, plus links to hardcore child pornography – thousands of posts are accessible within two clicks of the homepage. Perhaps the most notable have been the various boards where white supremacists share their angry, hateful messages.

New Zealand Terrorist Attack

Shortly before the Christchurch mosque terror attacks on Friday March 15th in New Zealand, an 8Chan user posted about a plan to carry out and live stream an attack. At least 49 people were killed in the attack and part of the event was live-streamed on Facebook.

8chan has been removed from Google’s search results since 2015.