8chan owner says site will stay down until he talks with Congress

He says the image board is offline "voluntarily."

Oscar Gonzalez Former staff reporter
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A screenshot from 8chan owner Jim Watkins' video responding to a shooting in Oslo, Norway.

Jim Watkins/YouTube

8chan owner Jim Watkins uploaded a video to YouTube on Sunday in response to media reports that incorrectly said an alleged gunman, accused of an attempted terrorist attack on a mosque in Norway on Saturday, posted on the message board prior to the incident. Watkins says in the video that the image board has been down, by choice, for the last week and it wouldn't be possible to post anything to the site. 

"The website has been offline voluntarily for the last week," he said in the video taken at the Sands Regency Casino Hotel in Reno, Nevada, according to the YouTube description. "It's really really sad. Please don't blame me." 

Watch this: What might happen to 8chan? (The Daily Charge, 8/7/2019)

Watkins says he will bring the site back online once he's talked with "Homeland Security." He's likely referring to the House Committee on Homeland Security, which requested he appear in front of Congress to address the proliferation of extremist content on 8chan. 

"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."

A spokesperson for the Committee told CNET they have been in contact with Watkins. 

8chan, a site popular with extremists, has been largely offline since Aug. 5 after internet security company Cloudflare and other providers decided to stop working with the site. "They have proven themselves to be lawless, and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths," Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a blog post on Aug. 5.

The catalyst was a mass shooting that killed 22 people and injured another two dozen at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3. A hate-filled manifesto from the suspected gunman was published on 8chan just before his attack. At least three gunman have posted manifestos to the site before shooting rampages this year. 

On Saturday, a man wearing body armor and a helmet, while carrying two "shotgun-like weapons and pistol," attempted to fire on a mosque located outside of Oslo. The alleged gunman was stopped by a worshiper, according to The New York Times. When police searched the man's house after the attempted shooting, they reportedly discovered the body of a dead woman. 

It appears the alleged attacker did post messages online prior to the incident, but on a different message board known as EndChan. The board's Twitter account made a statement confirming that messages, images and a link to a Facebook livestream were posted by someone claiming to be the gunman, which were removed by moderators.

The statement across multiple tweets said there had been an influx of users since 8chan's shutdown. It says that the alleged shooter is "not representative of our regular user base" and that the site has had no similar incidents since it opened in 2015.

8chan administrators didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Originally published Aug. 13, 8:21 a.m. PT.
Update, 8:59 a.m.: Adds more background on 8chan. 2:53 p.m.: Adds comment from Committee.