explainer

In just 6 months, 3 white nationalist mass shooters have shared their manifestos on 8chan.

— With AAP.

It was just like any ordinary Saturday morning.

In a crowded Walmart in El Paso, Texas, shoppers roamed their way around the store, picking up groceries and supplies for the school term ahead.

But before long, that ordinary Saturday morning was completely upended.

At around 10.30am, an active shooter descended on the shopping centre, shooting dozens of people at the store, which is located just eight kilometres north of the southern border.

Security video showed a skinny young man marching through the front door of the Walmart in a black T-shirt and khaki pants, carrying an AK-47 military-style rifle with an extended capacity magazine.

He killed 20 people and injured a further 27 others.

Jordan Anchondo was just one of those victims.

In her final moments, the 25-year-old protected her two-month-old infant son, after being caught up in the shooting while shopping for back to school supplies.

Both Jordan and her husband, Andre Anchondo, were killed in the shooting.

Their three children, including their infant son who survived, are now orphaned.

8chan el paso shooting
Jordan Anchondo was just one of the victims. Image: Twitter.
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According to CNN, just 20 minutes before the shooting began, a rant was posted to an online message board claiming the massacre was in response to an "invasion" of Hispanics coming across the US southern border.

Titled 'The Inconvenient Truth', it railed against the dangers of mass immigration and warned that Hispanics will eventually take over the economy and government.

The writer argued that attacking "low-security" targets was a way to "fight to reclaim my country from destruction".

"Do your part and spread this brother!" the writer added.

Investigators increasingly believe that these are the words of 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, who surrendered shortly after Saturday's rampage.

They are looking closely at the writing shared on message board 8chan as they prepare to prosecute the murder of 20 people and the wounding of 26 more as a hate crime.

If the connection between the suspect and the 8chan post are confirmed, the El Paso shooting will become the third instance in less than six months that a mass shooting has been announced in advance on the website.

The first sentence of Crusius' alleged rant, which appeared to be targeted at Latinos, expressed support for the man accused of killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March.

Before the suspect entered the two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 Muslims, he allegedly shared an 87-page white nationalist manifesto targeting Muslims on Twitter and 8chan.

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He also shared a link to his Facebook live feed, where he live-streamed the massacre from a helmet camera.

In the following month, on April 27, a gunman entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California.

One woman was killed and three other people were injured.

Much like the mosque attack, the suspect in the synagogue shooting allegedly shared a racist, antisemitic letter on 8chan in the days before the attack.

The alleged writer of the manifesto also made reference to being inspired by the Christchurch attacks.

In a post on Bellingcat, conflict journalist Robert Evans also pointed out that on 8chan, numerous users have made references to their desire to beat the alleged Christchurch shooter's "high score".

What is 8chan?

8chan is a website hosting user-generated message boards, which was modelled on message board 4chan.

On 8chan, topics can range from politics to video games to pop culture. Unlike 4chan, however, 8chan is committed to creating a a free speech utopia.

Although the creators of 4chan have the power to delete message boards, 8chan's commitment to harbouring free speech has created a home for hate speech, bigotry and racism in recent years.

Fredrick Brennan, who created 8chan in 2013, was getting ready for church in the Philippines when he heard about the mass shooting in El Paso.

“Whenever I hear about a mass shooting, I say, ‘All right, we have to research if there’s an 8chan connection,’” he said in an interview.

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In just hours, a connection was found.

“Shut the site down,” Brennan added. “It’s not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realise it.”

In 2015, Brennan gave up control of the website, passing over the reigns to United States army veteran Jim Watkins.

What is happening to 8chan now?

When the news of the El Paso shooting first broke, Cloudflare, a US company that provide internet services to websites, announced that it would not drop 8chan.

On Sunday evening, however, the company changed its course, announcing that they plan to cease doing business with the online forum.

"8chan has been on our radar for a long time as a problematic user," Cloudfare CEO Matthew Prince told Wired.

"But we have a responsibility, which is much beyond ‘we terminate sites we don’t like.’ I’m nervous about whether we’ve made the right decision, and I’m nervous about how this will set precedent in the future."

By cutting service to 8chan, Cloudflare have essentially shut the site down – at least until it finds a new provider.

"Some of you might’ve read the @Cloudflare news already," a Twitter account associated with 8chan posted on Sunday evening. "There might be some downtime in the next 24-48 hours while we find a solution."

Although 8chan is gone for now, it could be just days before the message boards are back online.


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