Extremist site 8chan turns to blockchain tech

The ‘anything goes’ message board, a rallying place for white supremacists, is now hosted by a company that uses Bitcoin cryptography

If it’s racist, misogynistic, extremist, or glorifies violence, you’ll find it on 8chan.

In the wake of the El Paso Walmart shooting that killed 20, the hate-filled message board has moved to privacy-first hosting provider ZeroNet, which uses Bitcoin cryptography, after being kicked off its previous host, Tucows.

8chan was also dropped by Cloudflare, the Internet security and infrastructure company that protected it against DDoS attacks, according to Forbes. Both Tucows and Cloudflare acted after the El Paso mass-shooter posted a hate-filled screed to the anything-goes site popular with white supremacists.

“8chan is almost like a bulletin board where the worst offenders go to share their terrible ideas,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told the New York Times on August 4. “It’s become a sounding board where people share ideas, and where these kinds of ideologies are amplified and expanded on, and ultimately, people are radicalized as a result.”

While ZeroNet is not built on a blockchain, it uses Bitcoin cryptography tools and is built on a decentralized system of peer-to-peer host nodes. So, as long as one node is active, the content will remain, according to the company’s website. It also uses the Tor Internet browsing anonymizer and BitTorrent P2P filesharing.

The sites hosted on it use .bit domain names, which are registered using Namecoin (NMC), a bitcoin-fork cryptocurrency currently selling for $0.78, according to CoinMarketCap.

“ZeroNet uses Bitcoin cryptography for site addresses and content signing/verification,” according to ZeroNet’s FAQ page. “User identification is based on Bitcoin’s BIP32 format.”

Because ZeroNet sites generate a standard private key for the site addresses, content providers can accept Bitcoin payments, it added.

In announcing that it was no longer working with 8chan, Cloudflare pointed out in a blog post that three mass shootings were preceded by messages on 8chan: the mosque shooting in New Christchurch, New Zealand; the synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif.; and now the El Paso Walmart massacre.

“The El Paso shooter specifically referenced the Christchurch incident and appears to have been inspired by the largely unmoderated discussions on 8chan which glorified the previous massacre,” the post said. “[T]hey have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.