Imageboard website 8chan has been offline since it was implicated in the August 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 individuals and injured 24 others. While there have been hints the website’s administrators are planning a return of the board under the name “8kun,” a lot of users have already moved on and made themselves at home on other websites and services.
“Where people really are going is Telegram,” Counter Extremism Project researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch told The Hill.
According to the group’s research, 65 “extreme-right-wing” Telegram channels have seen an average user growth of 43% within the month.
“Telegram was known as a place to access Islamist extremist content, and frankly it still is,” Oren Segal, head of the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Center on Extremism, also explained to the outlet. “But white supremacists have been catching up to their Islamist extremist counterparts on all platforms over the past several years.”
Furthermore, a recent investigation published by VICE News revealed that out of 150 far-right groups the outlet analyzed on Telegram, more than 100 were created in 2019. “The dynamics of white nationalism on Telegram in the last two years mirror how the rhetoric and actions of far-right extremists have intensified in real life,” the outlet asserted in the October 7 article.
Although Jim Watkins, owner of 8chan, was called to testify before Congress due to the “extremist content” on his website, the board’s Twitter page has been teasing its return under a new moniker: 8kun.
The US federal government has expressed outrage over the website over its relation to not only the El Paso massacre, but also the March 15 Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre and an April 27 attack on worshippers at a synagogue in Poway, California.
“We’ve seen terrorists post 8chan links to Facebook in an effort to bring widespread attention to mass shootings,” Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, said in a September 18 release. “We all need to do more to combat the spread of terrorism and keep our communities safe — Congress, tech companies — everyone.”
However, the US government’s inability to block Watkins’ website’s return or do more to prevent other social media platforms from providing meeting places for extremists and white nationalists bodes poorly for its chances of passing concrete regulations to curb the potential for future violence.