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‘Shut the Site Down,’ Says 8chan’s Creator (nytimes.com)
72 points by empath75 72 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

So literally everyone so much as reading 8chan/pol is on a watchlist, right? And what about the people posting they are about to “go kill as many brown people as they can find and they plan on being dead by the end of the day?” It’s a felony terroristic threat.

How about we just arrest everyone posting terroristic threats before they can do this kind of damage? 8Chan, or whatever public forum these discussions are occurring on.

I keep reading about blimps watching us 24/7, license plate readers tracking everywhere we drive.

Either these terrorists have the best opsec imaginable, or the FBI agents watching the site should consider a new line of work.

A guy like the El Paso shooter driving 9 hours to that city should have been stopped for a “broken tail light” long before he got to his destination.

I find it nearly incomprehensible that the attacker was entirely unknown to the FBI, that they didn’t flag the manifesto, know who posted it, and have the means to know he was, at that very moment, on a long road-trip toward the border.

I don’t personally know how long ahead of the attack the manifesto was posted, or if it was the attacker’s first post. Perhaps those details would mitigate somewhat my exasperation that this attack wasn’t foiled, but I suspect otherwise.

EDIT: According to the NYT it was posted 19 minutes before the first 911 call came in. But Newsweek says an hour and a half.

NYT's "The Daily" podcast discussed this a little over a year ago in response to the Parkland shooting, and I found it to be quite insightful. I believe it was this episode, but I could be wrong[0].

A major factor impeding law enforcement is the sheer number of people posting violent threats on social media. I can't remember the statistic, but they mentioned that the US justice system basically wouldn't be able to effectively process everyone in a timely manner that posted indications of violent activity on social media, it's just too frequent. It's easy to look back after a shooting and ask why law enforcement failed to see the warnings, but it's much harder to predict looking into the future. Simply posting angry threats on social media doesn't meet the threshold of committing a crime, but perception around that could be changing.

Another major issue is that this isn't a mental health issue, despite how it's characterized by politicians and the media. Deeply angry young men aren't mentally ill by any classical definition of mental illness; they're just really angry. They don't necessarily exhibit traits of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder; they're driven by hatred and anger, and that's just not something mental health professionals are equipped to diffuse.

0: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/23/podcasts/the-daily/gun-ac...

You could probably just make an example out of a couple of particularly bad threats every 3 months and reduce the number of threats significantly with that. The question is what does that actually achieve? A couple of people will simply turn to Tor or similar services, while others might post less but still kill people. It might rob law enforcement of the ability to develop some sort of system that can sort through the noise and prevent a few of these incidents in the future.

I doubt that would change much.

And law enforcement does thwart these kinds of attacks on a fairly regular basis, we just don’t hear about them as much. The same day that El Paso occurred, the FBI arrested a kid in Lubbock who was trying to obtain an assault weapon with the intent to perpetrate a mass shooting[0]. It’s not like the feds are totally incapable.

Like it or not, relying on sigint from social media isn’t going to stop many of these attacks. 8chan is full of trolls who parrot off one another, there’s just no reliable way to determine who’s just trolling and who is serious.

Our gun laws and the purchasing loopholes that exist desperately need to be addressed.

0: https://www.kwtx.com/content/news/Feds-Texas-man-planning-ma...

They don't need to process all of them, just a relatively small number of public examples.

Sweden has a reality TV show whit that very premise and it is called trollhunters. They choose a hate comment and then proceed to locate and confront the author. When done they also sometimes help the target of the hate, by example helping them filling a police report.

The show is followed with vigilantist justice as the people they locate usually end up receiving a lot of harassment from the public, and the benefit of making examples of people has not had any effect in decreasing hate messages online.

An interesting side note is that when you actually go after hate messages online, the gender stereotype of young male start to melt and you get a new stereotype. It is people with a lot of free time and who feel ignored by society. A typical example is thus middle age women.

However turning that hate towards going on a killing spree is unlikely for a middle age woman even if they say things like "someone should go down there and kill everyone", so there is a high rate of noise-to-massacre.

A lot of people who feel powerless use very strong language precisely because they feel like nothing they do matters. They often don't really mean it literally and wouldn't say it if they actually felt like anyone listened to anything they said.

They basically exaggerate their real desire, hoping that if they express their feelings strongly enough, it might lead to some very small action because their experience is that they are mostly not taken seriously and what they say mostly makes no impact. This is probably true of a lot of middle aged women.

I don't approve of the vigilante model, it just increases the general animosity in society. I'd rather there be public prosecutions of violence-advocating speech through the legal process.

>I keep reading about blimps watching us 24/7, license plate readers tracking everywhere we drive.

It's almost as if this "surveillance state" you all imagine doesn't exist. There are checks in place and warrants needed for this. If you see something illegal online you could report it to the FBI perhaps?

The ability to see something and stop it is not the same as the desire to see something and stop it.

The ability to collect something and the ability to see it are two different things. Just because data about this guy may have been snarfed up, doesn’t mean anybody looked at it.

The data is gathered but it's so much that any signal is drowned in noise. You either spend billions investigating hundreds of thousands of idiots spewing shit on the Internet or you miss "that one." There is no middle really.

Yes there is a middle. It's a cultural problem. Too many people get away with it. By spending some money and cracking down on it it would remind people this isn't acceptable behavior and change the culture. Once the culture is changed it becomes easier to focus on the real threats. We don't need to throw everybody in jail, but a fine here and there (ala speeding tickets) would go a long way to reminding people that this kind of behavior is wrong.

> It's almost as if this "surveillance state" you all imagine doesn't exist.

How do you imagine that billing for EZ Pass and license plate scanners works?

EZ-Pass is RFID based, it doesn't use license plate scanning but a transponder you have to have in your car (typically it's affixed to the windshield, but it doesn't need be)

I've spoken to the Chef Technology Manager and the Chief Executive Director of E-ZPass for some research I did with their system [0] and confirmed that it is not 100% reliant solely on the transponders, and that they do use license plate readers as well.

[0] https://github.com/kwesthaus/ez-sniff

How do you think they bill you when you drive through the system without a transponder?

The surveillance state very much exists, it's just extremely incompetent.

Would you expect the FBI to investigate every moronic shitpost on every social media outlet?

I think you're setting the bar too high. That's a lot of effort, a lot of resources, for something that can be solved in other ways (ie. controlled access to devices with the potential for mass murder).

>So literally everyone so much as reading 8chan/pol is on a watchlist, right?

Well, crap. When I heard the news I decided to pay 8chan a visit (never really been there before) to see how they took the news(not surprisingly, not well). I really hope I am not on a list because of this.

>When I heard the news I decided to pay 8chan a visit

You and a million others. You'll be fine.

On the plus side, you've been removed from the list of people who haven't ever visited 8chan

The US police aren't that organized or technologically advanced. If these shootings keep up though, we may end up building out the infrastructure to catch these people based on their online posts.

There simply aren't enough FBI agents let alone competent ones. If you go to /sudo/ right now you can see Codemonkey's post on a report they received which was given to them as a scan of a print of a screenshot of a threat they wanted to investigate and it took an entire week for them to send it over by which point the post was long gone.

How is this realistic? How do you know he wasn't using Tor?

People who post threats via Tor tend to get caught for being the only plausible suspect using Tor at the time of the threat.

Ones moral constitution is supremely revealed in the manner of conduct chosen when no perceived consequences exist.

e.g. Lord of The Flies.

There was a great quote from some WWII officer who said about war crimes (paraphrasing & I can’t remember his name) “We observe the rules of war not for the sake of our enemies, but for the sake of ourselves.”

If 8chan is really committed to some kind of free speech absolutism, it makes me wonder why they removed the offending posts.

8chan's owner allows free speech. The admin of each board can moderate as he pleases.

What is a workable answer when it comes to behavior and speech other than a rules based society with limits? I don't see truly oppressed people talking about this problem as the concept was meant to protect, I see people who want to be allowed to do and say whatever they feel like despite how it affects innocents. They hijack the intent for nefarious purpose. It's proven over and over that bad people abuse and take over platforms and societies that are entirely open. You cannot have entirely "free" speech without this problem. Any civilized society has to have limits and rules otherwise regular, calm, peaceful people are always suffering the effects of the aggressors.

I've used the example before of a town with one place to eat. Someone comes in screaming and throwing poop at people. You cannot just "ignore" it. It ruins the place for others. So you choice is to suffer it or never go out to eat and socialize with other calm folks. Is that a proper price to pay so the screaming poop thrower doesn't feel oppressed? Is that really sensible? Sure long term you can build another diner at your own expense...but the screaming poop thrower will come there too and if you kick him out you are "censoring". You can also stay home. But you lose out on experience and peace to avoid the problem. But this seems to be the idea people who are entirely against any censorship or rules propose. "If you don't like it ignore it or move on". That doesn't work in the real world.

I don’t see why it wouldn’t work online though. I think platforms like Twitter should adopt a “filter-list” like approach, where you could “unsubscribe” from different kinds of content / posters (e.g. “porn”, “gore”, “right-wing extremists”, “sci-fi enthusiasts”, etc.) - these lists could be generated both automatically (e.g. for porn), and / or manually moderated.

What exactly makes 8chan the preferred platform for this kind of stuff, and not other websites? Genuinely curious, is it just because it’s unmoderated?

I think this is the reason (from TFA):

>The site remained on the fringes until 2014, when some supporters of GamerGate — a loose reactionary collection of anti-feminist video gamers — flocked to 8chan after being kicked off 4chan. Since GamerGate, 8chan has become a catchall website for internet-based communities whose behavior gets them evicted from more mainstream sites.

That and Voat. Voat is almost as bad in a lot of ways

It's always possible that many sites were candidates given their traits. And one in a semi random manner became it.

Isn’t the story that all this crap was on 4chan, and then 8chan was created because 4chan started cracking down on this kinda stuff.

It may be argued that 4chan’s existence gave a home to this crap, or that it created it. Hard to know one way or another.

4chan didn't create it, 4chan was created for speech that wasn't allowed on somethingawful, and before that there was ogrish and before that rotten.com & stileproject, before that? Probably alt.tasteless.

> 4chan didn't create it, 4chan was created for speech that wasn't allowed on somethingawful

4chan was created by somethingawful users as an imitation of Japanese imageboards. It was used for speech that wasn't allowed on SA because it was right next door. Then SA decided it didn't like 4chan.

Then SA's culture spread to magazines like Gawker and Buzzfeed, which is part of the reason 4chan is so unpopular now.

If Gawker and Buzzfeed had hired from one side of the Harry Potter fandom, and if a handful of high-profile people like Zoe Quinn had come from it, we'd probably be hearing about how all of America's problems are caused by people who like Snape or whatever.

Yeah no, drawing this as a online pissing match between two groups in some 'culture war' doesn't hold water when one side is fucking murdering people in a walmart, sorry.

I hear what you’re saying. 4chan wasn’t the start of this. But did each step of the chain transform the idea, or was each step merely an incrementally better home for already existing ideas?

Jeez, internet history is a rabbit hole.

It’s a distasteful site but I think it should stay. No speech should be silenced.

Historically very little speech could be made without social consequences, the internet broke that paradigm

I think these two posts just about sum up the state of things and our disagreements at this time in history as succinctly as I could imagine.

The question I keep asking is, how do we add those social consequences back into internet speech, without massive regulation, this I do not know the answer to yet.

Yep, agreed.

You can hide behind a username and say hateful things without any consequences.

Historically they put on white hoods and gathered in person, the internet only changed the game for relatively small but geographically dispersed groups. I wouldn't be surprised if this type of person still met predominantly IRL and 8chan is mostly a few loners, it tends to net be the most tech literate bunch of people.

The 'only' there is doing a lot of work.

I don't have a citation for this, but my feeling is that historically, the majority of the people posting hate on social media aired their fringe views in much smaller and more direct social settings (the family dinner table, the pub, their barber/hairdresser) where instead of the reinforcement and gratification of many random upvotes from people in a similar situation or a vitriolic internet argument, they received either a fairly awkward smile and nod, a face-to-face rebuttal, genuine confirmation or (more likely) a mixture of the three.

Or you call up talkback radio and blabber into the void, often being shut down by the host.

A quick thought experiment:

Imagine you're pissed off because you've become disenfranchised for whatever reason and you're looking for someone to blame and lash out towards.

You don't have access to the internet. How much more effort would you have to put in to locate a similarly sized group of like-minded people who vehemently confirm and reinforce your views than you would now? How much more effective would the social filter which you encounter on the way be, remembering that every step of the way would mean real, rapport-inducing, face to face discussions with people who may disagree?

I think you've got the causation backwards, most people don't start off with extreme views, they start off far more moderate until they account their extremist group. Once they're in that group the become part of the self reinforcing bubble.

> How much more effort would you have to put in to locate a similarly sized group of like-minded people who vehemently confirm and reinforce your views than you would now?

That will be highly variable, but IME not too hard. The punk/metal scene used to have a lot of overlap with neo nazis so exposure was easy. I've twice been invited to migtow groups from people at my local drinking hole (a progressive club in a progressive inner city area), not to mention some other fringe but less violent groups. If your a social type of person that enjoys chatting with a wide range of people your often only one or two steps away.

You can say whatever you want, but I am under no obligation to (a) listen to it or (b) help deliver it to the masses. That is why I agree that providers such as CloudFlare (should) have the ability to refuse to host content such as this.

I agree, but I'm still surprised at cloudflares decision.

If I'm hosting some content, I now have to worry about if my content might violate their opinions of 'tastelessness', and if so, I might be given 24 hours to leave.

If I were a customer, that's a small risk but a big impact. I'd prefer a provider that didn't do that.

In the two cases where CloudFlare has done this to date they seem to draw the line at murder. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

Do you think any other provider you may do business with has a more liberal policy than CloudFlare? Have you actually read the terms of service for any of them?

If this is the thing that changes how you view CloudFlare then you are already on shaky ground.

Did you call for Comedy Central to be shut down after Larry Wilmore said:“I don’t want to give [Trump] any more oxygen. That’s not a euphemism, by the way. I mean it literally."

Or after the shootings of Congresspeople, arguably inspired by all the celebrities calling for violence?

Or is your outrage (and CloudFlare's) partisan?

Huh? I'm not calling for anything. Simply stating CloudFlare is well within their rights to tell 8chan to fuck off and nobody should be surprised by this.

Is there a way to read the NY Times? I can't be incognito, or in guest mode, and Outline says "not supported".

Same shit with LA Times and the WP.

Disable JS.

Seems like a honeypot for surveillance.

I' am celebrating right now...

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