8Chan Owner Provides Private Testimony Before Congress, Defends the First Amendment
The owner of 8chan, Jim Watkins, provided a closed door congressional deposition before the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday.
Watkins maintains that the site “has never tolerated illegal speech and has a consistent track record of working with law enforcement agencies when appropriate.”
Congress had summoned the anonymous online forum’s owner to testify about how the website plans to tackle “the proliferation of extremist content, including white supremacist content.”
“We want to thank Mr. Watkins for his cooperation today,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and ranking member Mike Rogers said in a statement about the deposition. “He provided vast and helpful information to the Committee about the structure, operation, and policies of 8Chan and his other companies.” They added that they “look forward to his continued cooperation with the Committee as he indicated his desire to do so during today’s deposition.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Mike Rogers had previously wrote in a letter to Watkins that the El Paso shooting was “at least the third act of supremacist violence linked to your website this year.” Similarly, the shooter also had Instagram and Twitter accounts, but representatives from those platforms have not been summoned.
8Chan’s official Twitter account tweeted that they have retained Benjamin Barr as their lawyer, as well as their response to the inquiry.
We have retained Mr. Benjamin Barr to assist us in attending the Congressional hearing. In the interest of transparency, here's what we submitted to the Committee in preparation for the deposition.https://t.co/8VvSzCJc4u
— 8chan (8ch.net) (@infinitechan) September 5, 2019
Barr has previously represented Project Veritas.
“Mindful of tragedies America has faced, Mr. Watkins also believes in the exceptional promise of the First Amendment. 8chan is the only platform featuring a full commitment to free speech—a one-of-a-kind discussion board where anonymous users shared tactics about French democracy protests, how to circumvent censorship in repressive countries, and the best way to beat a classic video game. In this hodgepodge of chaotic discussion, down-home recipes are traded, sorrows lifted, and a small minority of users post hateful and ignorant items,” the letter to the committee explained.
8Chan has come under scrutiny in recent times, particularly after rumors swirled that the El Paso shooter had posted a manifesto on the platform.
Watkins contends that it had not been posted by the shooter.
“First of all, the El Paso shooter posted on Instagram, not 8Chan. Later, someone uploaded a manifesto. However, that manifesto was not uploaded by the Walmart shooter,” Watkins asserted in his video statement. “I don’t know if he wrote it or not, but it was not uploaded by the murderer. That is clear, and law enforcement was made aware of this before most people had even heard the horrific news.”
The forum has been targeted by a massive campaign to have it removed from the internet and is currently offline as it was dropped first by the cybersecurity company Cloudfare, then by Voxility — who provides infrastructure for the hosting platform Epik.