Note: This blog has been updated since it was originally published in August 2019 to include information about 8kun, 8chan's successor site.
Launched in 2013, 8chan was an imageboard or "chan" site similar in structure to 4chan. The site was shut down in August 2019 after being used to share manifestos linked to three mass shootings in the United States and New Zealand.
8chan was originally built as a discussion platform to circumvent what it’s creator, Fredrick Brennan, perceived as the Internet’s “loss of free speech.” 8chan is affiliated with hate-groups (such as neo-nazis, alt-righters, and misogynists) and illegal activities.
The site gained traction after the popular imageboard site 4chan banned posts affiliated with Gamergate (a widespread harassment campaign against women and progressivism in the gaming community).
It was blacklisted by Google in 2015 and taken offline completely in the aftermath of the El Paso, Poway, and Christchurch mass shootings. 8chan's creators have since replaces the site by 8kun, a dark website accessible using Tor
HOW DID PEOPLE USE 8CHAN?
Chan sites host a variety of discussions about everything from news commentary to software discussions. However, chan sites are often populated by users who have been flagged discussing radical or extremist topics and inciting hate speech. Despite its original rule—Do not post, request, or link to any content illegal in the United States of America. Do not create boards with the sole purpose of posting or spreading such content—8chan contained topics about illegal activities and hate-filled discussion.
The platform was known specifically for radicalizing shooters, who often post online manifestos in the moments or days prior to committing attacks. Manifestos typically include references to previous shooters, descriptions of the forthcoming attack (e.g. weapon types), and racially or politically-motivated reasons behind the attack.
EXAMPLES OF SITE ACTIVITY INCLUDED:
Swatting and coordinated harassment. Users organized prank phone calls to incite emergency services deployment to a victim’s address.
Child pornography. Users created boards to discuss child pornography and rape, and share images.
Conspiracy theories and harmful activism. 8chan hosted discussions on conspiracy theories, such as deep state theories associated with QAnon, and the Pizzagate conspiracy targeting democrats in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
Shootings and manifestos. 8chan was linked to multiple mass shootings, including:
- Bethel Park Highschool: An 18-year-old was arrested and charged after threatening on 8chan to carry out a mass shooting at Bethel Park Highschool in March 2019.
- Christchurch Mosque Shootings: Brenton Tarrant posted links to a 74-page manifesto and a livestream of the attack on 8chan before killing 51 individuals at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019.
- Poway Synagogue Shooting: John T. Earnest posted an open letter to 8chan shortly before opening fire in the California Synagogue on April 29, 2019, killing one.
- El Paso Shooting: Patrick Crusius posted a four-page manifesto to 8chan shortly before opening fire in an El Paso Walmart on August 3, 2019, killing 22.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Even though 8chan itself is no longer online, its extremist users are still active—in fact, the site relaunched as 8kun on the dark web in November 2019. 8kun's resurfacing as a dark web site means increased anonymity for its user base and an abundant source of hate speech and other information relevant to public safety threats.
8kun, and similar anonymous chan forums on the deep and dark webs harbour valuable threat intelligence. Accessing this information is critical for public safety officials seeking to mitigate and investigate crime, including active shooter situations and other events linked to extremism, harassment, and pedophilia.
8KUN AND THREAT INTELLIGENCE
Anonymous, public imageboard sites like 8kun are valuable sources of intelligence for analyzing and understanding the aftermath of an event. It’s also useful for advising public safety teams on how to detect or prevent future incidents. How can public safety officials access this information quickly?
Due to the nature of their content, imageboard sites on the deep and dark web are not indexed by search engines and often require a Tor browser to access. This makes searching for relevant information cumbersome and dangerous. Threat intelligence discovery tools, such as Beacon, are necessary to locate useful information.
Beacon is a fully-indexed deep and dark web discovery tool that allows users to search for critical content from the safety of their usual browser. Instead of manually searching through chan sites for useful intel, Beacon aggregates relevant data based on keywords and other search filters. For example, Beacon users can search for known usernames, keywords, or personally identifiable information tied to a specific event or discussion to find content like manifestos or other public safety threats.
Beacon's interface also allows users to filter data specifically crawled from 8kun and other useful data sources:
The prevalence of imageboard sites as platforms for illegal activity, harassment campaigns, and mass shootings make it them crucial sources of intelligence for public safety officials. 8kun's launch means that dark web search tools play a huge role in accessing this information quickly and effectively.
Book a demo to learn more about what Beacon can do for your organization.