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Congress Wants to Talk to 8chan's Owner About Extremism. He Says He's Too Busy.

This year, three suspected mass shooters have posted white supremacist screeds to 8chan before carrying out their attacks.

by David Gilbert
Aug 7 2019, 11:01am

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Jim Watkins, the owner of the hate-filled website 8chan, says he’s too busy getting his son ready for his first day of school to appear before Congress and answer questions about white supremacy and extremism.

On Tuesday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss) and ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Al) summoned Watkins to appear before the committee on Tuesday evening.

“Regrettably, this is at least the third act of white supremacist extremist violence linked to your website this year,” Thompson and Rogers wrote. “Americans deserve to know what, if anything, you, as the owner and operator, are doing to address the proliferation of extremist content on 8chan.”

The committee was referring to the fact that moments before the mass shooting in El Paso, the suspect 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 both posted a screed to the site just before the attack. The next month, the suspect in the shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California, did the same.

Watkins responded to the demand, but it’s unclear if the Committee received what he sent.

READ: The owner of 8Chan is super sorry about all the shootings. He still won’t take it down.

The official 8chan Twitter account posted a screengrab of Watkin’s reply, claiming it was flagged as spam by the committee’s email server.

In his response, Watkins, who lives in the Philippines and has not visited the U.S. for years, said he would be on American soil on Tuesday to prepare his son for his first day of school but would be gone again by that evening.

“I am always available to talk to you by telephone. Rest assured I am not an extremist. My telephone should work worldwide,” Watkins wrote.

The committee’s demand came hours after Watkins posted a bizarre video statement about the shooting in El Paso, describing the site as a "peacefully assembled group of people talking.”

READ: 8chan extremists are going dark. Here’s why that’s dangerous.

Watkins expressed his regrets about the shooting but insisted 8chan had nothing to do with the attack. He claimed his site was the victim of baseless attacks by journalists and people who want the website to be taken offline.

Watkins also insisted that it wasn’t the gunman who posted the racist screed to 8chan, but he provided no proof for that claim. All evidence points to the fact it was the gunman who posted it.

Congress’ questions may be moot at this point, as 8chan remains offline Wednesday. It’s struggling to find a company, any company, to provide it with the necessary hosting and protection services to keep it online.

READ: Exclusive: Dayton shooter was in a “pornogrind” band that released songs about raping and killing women

After its hosting provider Cloudflare pulled support at midnight on Monday, the site was brought back online briefly on Monday morning thanks to the support of Epik and Bitmitigate. But when Epik's own web infrastructure provider Voxility found out it was hosting 8chan, it pulled the plug.

On Wednesday morning, the site’s founder tweeted that the end is in sight for the website he created in 2014.

“It's finally starting to sink in for me that it's over,” Frederick Brennan tweeted. “8chan is completely exposed right now again.”

Cover: Mariana Cordero, right, embraces Gilbert Reza at a makeshift memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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