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8chan owner subpoenaed to testify before Homeland Security committee

Jim Watkins must appear before the US House committee on Sept. 5.

8chan owner Jim Watkins

8chan owner Jim Watkins was subpoenaed to appear before the US Committee on Homeland Security.

Jim Watkins

Following two mass shootings, the US House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday subpoenaed 8chan owner Jim Watkins to testify as part of its efforts to counter "extremist content on social media." The subpoena (PDF) orders Watkins to appear before the committee on Sept. 5 at 6:30 a.m. PT/9:30 a.m. ET.

On Aug. 4, nine people died in a shooting in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio. The day before, 20 people died in a shooting in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, with another two victims dying two days later. Just prior to the El Paso attack, the suspected gunman posted a hate-filled statement on 8chan, an anonymous online forum.

Watkins is required to testify on "matters of inquiry" and is "not to depart without leave of said committee," the subpoena states.

"At least three acts of deadly white supremacist extremist violence have been linked to 8chan in the last six months," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, committee chairman and a Democrat from Mississippi, and Rep. Mike Rogers, ranking member and a Republican from Alabama, said in a joint statement. "We have questions on what is being done to counter this trend so we can be sure it is being properly addressed. Receiving testimony from Mr. Watkins is critical to our oversight on this matter."

The House Committee on Homeland Security originally requested on Aug. 6 that Watkins appear in front of Congress to address extremist content on 8chan.

Watkins said in a YouTube video Tuesday that 8chan has been down by choice for the past week until he speaks with "Homeland Security." 

"The website has been offline voluntarily for the last week," he said in a video filmed from the Sands Regency Casino Hotel in Reno, Nevada, according to the YouTube description. The video came in response to media reports that incorrectly stated an alleged gunman accused of an attempted terrorist attack on a mosque in Norway on Saturday posted on the 8chan message board prior to the incident.

"I want them to understand that we have nothing to do with this crazy violence that's been happening," he said. "I want them to understand what's been going on because it's obviously a smear by the press."

Watkins lives in the Philippines but is currently in the US.

Following the El Paso shooting, 8chan has mostly been offline due to a series of hosting and security companies, starting with Cloudflare, deciding to stop working with the site.

CNET couldn't find contact information for Watkins, and he hasn't yet responded publicly to the subpoena. 

First published at 1:42 p.m. PT on Aug. 14.
Update, 3:27 p.m.: Adds statement from the House committee.

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