8chan founder says America needs to build a safer internet

8chan founder says America needs to build a safer internet

AAfter weeks of activist pressure, internet infrastructure company Cloudflare recently ended its support for Kiwi Farms, an online group described as “the web’s largest community of stalkers”. The Breaking Point: A targeted harassment campaign against a trans livestreamer and activist so harsh it drove his target into hiding. Cloudflare provided critical technical infrastructure for site security and speed, and with those elements removed, the Kiwi Farms site crashed.

But what will happen to sites like Kiwi Farms in the future? And what is the content moderation responsibility of companies like Cloudflare, which provide basic, usually invisible, services for the vast majority of the web? The US and EU are facing heightened scrutiny for online privacy, safety and security this year, and some say service providers like Cloudflare need to take responsibility too.

Fredrick Brennan is the founder of 8chan, a message board related to hate speech, white supremacy and nationalism. In 2019, six years after the forum was founded, a user of the site staged a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, and posted his manifesto on 8chan. He was later linked to several other shootings.

Brennan disavowed his creation in the press and continued to advocate for action against image panels like Kiwi Farms and the site he founded. Now 28, he is a software developer.

In this Q&A, adapted from two interviews with Brennan in September, he explains why the Internet should be more regulated in the United States, like other industries, to solve the problems raised by toxic sites.

It has been edited for length and clarity.

Were you surprised that Kiwi Farms was taken down by Cloudflare?

Frederick Brennan: No, not really, mostly because of who they targeted. I’m not surprised at all. I saw it as inevitable. Josh [Moon, the founder of Kiwi Farms] constantly makes mistakes like this. He is uncompromising with the people he hates. Obviously he hates trans people and has publicly stated that he believed the slander against one of them.

A logical operator in his position simply wouldn’t want to get into this battle, and I think he mistakenly assumed that Cloudflare would stay behind. I think his ideology is what makes him unable to see what is going to happen.

You have first-hand experience of these types of sites. Should Cloudflare’s action trigger something larger for companies that provide hosting, security, and other infrastructure for websites?

It is multifaceted. There is really only one country where something like this shit site can exist, and that is the United States due to the intersection of different laws. In different jurisdictions, this is simply not possible, even in places one would expect. Singapore for example? No it’s impossible. Japan? No. This is the biggest problem because the United States is a broken democracy right now. You know, I’m American. I don’t mind saying that.

All social media is based in the United States. It’s not because we Americans are particularly good at making that stuff. I work on free software and have worked with developers from almost every country and there is nothing special about our programming skills. There’s nothing special about the American mind when it comes to building web services. It’s all legal and corporate stuff.

It really is legal arbitration, where you have the fewest problems in the United States. That’s why I don’t really know how to answer your question, because I don’t know if there is a world power that can do anything other than the United States. And I just don’t know how the United States can even begin to act on this, because our system is so broken.

Our government in the United States has decided that on the international stage, its technological supremacy gives it a lot of power. And as a result, market regulations are so weak that they are practically nil. So all tech companies want – if they’re not registered here, which they usually are – then to have all their infrastructure here.

Read more: Cloudflare is one of the companies quietly powering the internet. Researchers say it’s a haven for misinformation

Activists rallied against Cloudflare and urged the provider to shut down the site. The site now moves between providers in Russia and Portugal, in a cat-and-mouse game with activists launching retaliatory attacks. What happens to Kiwi Farms now?

I think they get away with so many things that people will just continue to do this self-defense justice so that [providers like Cloudflare] go outside. It’s emblematic of the Wild West culture of the American internet, where it’s heavily based on vigilance.

How to get out of this system based on vigilance?

I don’t know if there is a good way. But I think we’re going to see a kind of new system emerge. I started thinking about it after the Christchurch shootings, when the nations of Australia, New Zealand and some European countries blocked not only Kiwi Farms, but also 8kun, the 8chan website on which the shooter posted his manifesto. It is essentially based on a concept of cybersovereignty.

There is a shift in international norms, where politicians are fed up with the United States and its complete inaction. The internet will likely become much more fractured. And the websites you can access will increasingly depend on the nation you are in.

Is there a model to follow outside the United States in terms of regulations? Is that even an option?

I hope. I think the UN needs to have some sort of internet policy agreement or framework. Otherwise, it will be total chaos, with each country deciding for itself, based on local laws, which websites can be accessed.

What should we do now?

I think what we should be doing is what I’m doing, which is to focus primarily on directors and whether they’re acting in good or bad faith. That’s mainly why I don’t tend to make it a discourse problem most of the time, like a content problem per se. I tend to make it a question about what admins think, why they allow certain content, what their processes look like. And as far as Kiwi Farms goes, their processes are terrible and they’ve done things that are literally extortion.

There needs to be, I think, a stricter enforcement of what administrators do. But we also need regulation. The same way we have an FDA that oversees food and drugs and an SEC that oversees securities, you need a regulatory agency just for social media companies. And besides, image boards like Kiwi Farms and 4chan are as much an IT company that this regulator could take action against as Facebook..

I would like to see if that helps at all, before changing fundamental things about free speech.

More Must-Try Stories from TIME


contact us at letters@time.com.

#8chan #founder #America #build #safer #internet

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.