8chan, the anonymous message board that hosted rants from multiple mass shooters in the last 12 months, has reappeared online, and so has its most famous user: QAnon.
The site reappeared after three months after it was taken down in the wake of the El Paso mass shooting, and in spite of efforts to keep it offline led by Frederick Brennan, who founded the forum but who is no longer involved with it.
The site came back online Saturday under the new name 8kun thanks to a Russian hosting service that is typically associated with hosting ransomware and stolen credit cards.
And within hours of the site coming online, those supporting the conspiracy theories of QAnon, which have been embraced by President Donald Trump’s right-wing MAGA supporters, were rejoicing.
Someone claiming to be Q made a number of posts on the site, including a link to a YouTube video of an American flag waving in the breeze. He also posted the cryptic message “Rig for Red” which some QAnon followers have speculated that he is about to surface.
Even though all those using 8chan and 8kun post content anonymously, the site identifies individuals using their IP addresses and assigned them identity numbers known as tripcodes. It is this that has allowed the site’s administrators, and Qanon followers, to claim that this is the real Q.
Q previously stated that he would never post an update anywhere but 8chan, so when the site went offline three months ago, it left his followers adrift.
The site was taken offline in August in the wake of the mass shooting in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas after the accused shooter posted a four-page rant to 8chan attempting to explain his actions. In March, the man who allegedly killed dozens of people at two New Zealand mosques posted a screed to the site just before the attack. Weeks later, the suspect in the shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, did the same.
Ever since El Paso, efforts to bring it back were hampered in part by web infrastructure companies like Cloudflare, which have refused to host the website.
The site’s owner Jim Watkins told Congress in September that the site would only come back online once it was “able to develop additional tools to counter illegal content under United States law.”
The 8kun name is an effort to show the website is maturing. In Japanese, the suffix “chan” typically refers to a child, while “kun” typically refers to a young man. However the site is virtually identical to the predecessor and within minutes of the site coming back online, the same antisemitic content that was present on 8chan was being shared on 8kun.
In recent weeks Watkins and his son Ron Watkins, who acts as the site’s administrator, have tried to use a wide variety of hosting services in recent weeks, including Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent, the administrators of the site were finally able to get it live thanks to the services of Media Land LLC, a hosting service operated out of Russia by a 36-year-old Ukrainian Alexander Alexandrovich Volosovik.
A report by investigative reporter Brian Krebs in July revealed that Volosovik’s service — described as “bulletproof hosting” — was being used for everything from hosting ransomware, supporting services stealing credit cards and facilitating phishing websites on a grand scale.
Such hosting services do not come cheap however and yet they remain vulnerable to those seeking to take the site offline again.
"This is the most expensive place you could choose, and it is the easiest to overwhelm,” Brennan told VICE News. “Anyone who wants to can send a denial of service attack and very easily take it down. This is not a long term solution."
Since the site went live on Saturday, the administrators said they have been facing significant cyber attacks.
“We are having a lot of issues with attacks and some lingering software bugs,” Ron Watkins told VICE News on Sunday night. “We are working on it but I think it will still be another handful of days before we are stable again.”
Nick Lim, the CEO of VanwaTech, a U.S. company providing cyberattack protection to 8kun, told VICE News, this was “normal” because he “expected there to be a lot of attacks.”
Brennan speculates that negative media attention on the hosting provider could see him pull his support for the site, leaving it once again searching for a hosting provider.
That doesn’t mean 8kun will disappear entirely, however, as the admins have relaunched the site on the regular internet alongside a dark web version as well as a version hosting on Lokinet, a blockchain-based decentralized web platform.
A move which ultimately means Q will live on.
"We can't stop Q,” Brennan told VICE. “They will always establish a line of communication for Q because they can just use the dark web."
Cover: An attendee holds signs with the words "We Are Q" before the start of a rally with U.S. President Donald Trump in Lewis Center, Ohio, U.S., on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. (Photo: Maddie McGarvey/Bloomberg via Getty Images)