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Title: 8chan: ex-users of far-right site flock to new homes across internet
Source: The Guardian
URL Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news ... an-shutdown-users-social-media
Published: Aug 9, 2019
Author: Kari Paul
Post Date: 2019-08-09 10:24:46 by Willie Green
Keywords: None
Views: 45
Comments: 2

Former members of 8chan have scattered across the internet after the far-right site was shut down over the weekend, finding new homes in other rightwing sites, on encrypted messaging services, and on major social media platforms.

8chan went dark this week after the security service provider Cloudflare terminated the extremist messaging board as one of its clients following the El Paso shooting.

The anonymous nature of 8chan can make it difficult to track where its followers are going, said Joan Donovan, the director and lead researcher of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. But 8chan’s user base overlaps with several websites and platforms, making it likely that community members will move on to other sites and message platforms, she noted.

“Most likely, these groups are moving to alternative social media platforms where there is a pre-existing community to join,” agreed Benjamin Decker, CEO of the digital investigations consultancy Memetic. “The removal of 8chan is just crossing one more platform off the list they won’t be using for the time being, but it won’t necessarily disrupt the community structure.”

Community migrates to other platforms

As users seek new platforms, the “gamification” of content – receiving votes for comments and posts – is key, said Decker. But what’s most important is anonymity.

“At the end of the day these user communities will shift into anonymized space. They’d rather shy away from being outed for having such opinions,” Decker said.

Among the sites 8chan users appear to be relocating to is Gab, the forum frequented by the alleged shooter in the November 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue attack. In a statement released on Wednesday, Gab said it was adding more than 1,000 new users a day as “big tech bans people”.

“The more journalists demonize companies like Gab and 8chan, the more you accelerate us towards the inevitable decentralized and open source future,” Gab said.

Decker noted there had also been discussion in the 8chan community about moving to lesser-known services.

Some users may also just be returning to 4chan, the message board that predated 8chan and enforces more rules on hate speech. An analysis from the web analytics service SimilarWeb found traffic to both sites peaked on 4 August, the day after the El Paso shooting.

“These increases in traffic to 8ch.net and 4chan.org could suggest that people that are unfamiliar with what 8chan is are going to the site because of the media frenzy surrounding it, and recurring visitors to 8ch.net are now switching to 4chan.org, following the shutdown of 8ch.net,” Ilana Marks of SimilarWeb said.

A second life on the dark web

8chan has also found a second life on harder-to-reach parts of the internet. In recent days, a replica of the site has emerged on the deep web, said Decker, referring to unindexed internet pages that require a special browser to access.

He added that a separate mirror version of the forum went up on Zeronet, an alternative to the dark web that

requires you to host content on your own computer.

It’s not clear who’s behind the Zeronet version. An 8chan administrator said the Zeronet site was not built by the original 8chan team, and added he had “no idea who set that up”. Former 8chan members have warned users that by downloading Zeronet they may be inadvertently hosting child abuse images on their computers.

Encrypted messaging apps

Encrypted messaging platforms, too, may be providing the 8chan community ways to communicate. Telegram has seen an uptick in far-right speech as users migrate to the anonymous service, Decker said. Donovan, too, said her research was showing that discussions once prevalent on 8chan were increasingly popping up on Telegram chats. And other 8chan users have spoken on Twitter about moving to Discord, a voice and text app. Telegram and Discord did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

That 8chan has been pushed further underground has both positive and negative effects, experts say. The site’s banishment to the dark web makes it less accessible to the average person, and far harder to find. But it could also make it more difficult to monitor dangerous speech, and help allow hate movements to proliferate.

Tech giants absorb 8chan community

While underground and encrypted platforms are seeing an increase in traffic, more mainstream platforms may also see an influx of 8chan users, Decker said. And those platforms have been slow to block the 8chan spillover.

Mainstream sites can play a role in radicalizing users: some 90% of extremists between 2005 and 2016 were influenced by social media, and of those 65% used Facebook, according to a report from the National Consortium for the study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

Some 8chan users appear to be gathering in the comment sections of YouTube videos and others in private Facebook groups dedicated to conspiracy theory QAnon.

Tracking the spread of these communities is difficult, and so far, tech companies have focused on removing violent images, rather than addressing the language that slowly radicalizes users.

“One way to prevent 8chan users from migrating to alternative social media spaces like YouTube and Facebook would be to build a moat around the platforms to prevent inbound links from these sites,” Decker said. “As a researcher it is frustrating to see mainstream social sites not employ this defense strategy.”

Facebook automatically blocks links from the Daily Stormer, a white supremacist message board that was widely deplatformed after it was linked to violence in Charlottesville in 2017, but links from Gab, 8chan, and 4chan are still categorically allowed.

A Facebook spokeswoman told the Guardian the company blocked links to other sites when the content violates community standards on a case by case basis. In the aftermath of El Paso, Facebook blocked links to sites that contained the manifesto posted by the shooter.

YouTube told the Guardian it was removing comments that violated its community guidelines, but the videos themselves remain. The company declined to say whether it plans to address 8chan users moving to the platform and YouTube still allows links from 8chan and 4chan to be posted in comment sections for videos.

Though 8chan members likely prefer anonymous platforms to Facebook and YouTube, it’s important these companies crack down on content from the site, Decker said.

“There is an inherent value in deplatforming the site as a whole and making it harder to be accessed because the nature of these communities makes it difficult to inoculate the spread of this toxicity.”


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#1. To: Willie Green (#0)

Woo hoo!! Come to Papa!!

Free Republic 3rd Quarter Fundraising Target: $88,000

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nolu chan  posted on  2019-08-09   10:56:50 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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Willie Green  posted on  2019-08-09   12:04:08 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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