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Jim Watkins seems confused about his website 8chan.
In a bizarre video posted on YouTube on Tuesday morning, Watkins describes the anonymous message board as if it were just another run-of-the-mill online blog.
For its approximately 1 million users, he insists, the site was “an empty piece of paper to write on,” and its shutdown — which happened Monday when hosting companies said they would no longer support hate speech — has “dispersed the peacefully assembled group of people talking. It has silenced them.”
What Watkins fails to mention during his stilted, seven-minute speech is that 8chan is home to some of the most racist and hate-filled speech anywhere on the internet. And it’s not just speech: In the last six months, three mass murderers have used 8chan to post content supporting their extremist ideologies.
The latest came on Saturday morning, when the man who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in a Walmart in El Paso posted a racist screed to the site just 45 minutes before opening fire with an assault-style weapon.
But Watkins dismissed the allegation, claiming someone else had posted the document, without offering any proof of who that accomplice might be.
“It was not uploaded by the murderer. That is clear,” Watkins said.
That claim flies in the face of open-source evidence that strongly indicates that the gunman was the only person who could have posted the four-page rant.
In the video, with Taps playing and an image of Benjamin Franklin looming in the background, Watkins blames “some less-than-credible journalists” for the downfall of his site.
Watkins’ video statement was posted after the site was taken offline in recent days after several companies decided to pull support for the website. The site went offline on Sunday night, when Cloudflare pulled support. It came back online briefly Monday, when Bitmitigate and Epik offered their services — but within hours it was offline again when U.K. company Voxility, which provides computing services to Epik, said it would not support hate speech. The website says it is currently looking for an alternative hosting company, but for now the site remains offline.
Watkins is an internet entrepreneur and a U.S. Army veteran. He lives in the Philippines, where he operates a pig farm.
Watkins bought the site from Fredrick Brennan in 2014. In recent months, Brennan has completely disavowed the site, this week he called for it to be closed permanently.
“Shut the site down,” Brennan told the New York Times. “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 realize it.”
Cover: People visit a makeshift memorial, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, at the site of a mass shooting at a shopping complex, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)