8chan owner Jim Watkins provided evidence to congressional staffers on Thursday to comply with a subpoena the House Homeland Security Committee issued him after a series of racist manifestos from mass shooters were posted on the site. His site has remained down since shortly after the shooting — but new statements made to The Verge suggest it may be coming back sooner than many expected.
According to Watkins’s lawyer, Benjamin Barr, 8chan’s owners hope to have the site back online in the next week or so. In his prepared remarks for the committee, Watkins said that 8chan is currently “offline voluntarily” and that it may come back online soon, once the site “is able to develop additional tools to counter illegal content under United States law.”
“This isn’t written in stone, but somewhere around a week, they hope to be back,” Barr said.
Barr told The Verge that he believes the tools Watkins described are complete, but he could not comment on exactly what the tools are or how the relaunched 8chan will counter illegal content on the platform. In his prepared remarks, Watkins did say that 8chan could implement a “read-only” mode for when the site is in a state of emergency, like when a manifesto is posted, or created a separate “restricted mode” that would go into effect under the same circumstances that would make the site inaccesible over the Tor Network and prohibit users from posting any files.
But Barr pushed back against reading too much into that idea. “I don’t think it is the restricted mode,” Barr told The Verge, “but it is with respect to being able to identify illegal content.”
Watkins wrote in his statement for the committee that 8chan already uses one bot to “remove illegal content and spam, automated or human, based only on keywords.”
So far, it appears that 8chan is still down because they are still threatened
“They’ve already executed the security,” Barr told The Verge, but 8chan is currently offline because the owners are “working on having a stable hosting solution where they can’t be deplatformed or it will be a lot more difficult to deplatform them.”
8chan was initially taken offline in early August after the white nationalist El Paso, Texas shooting that left over 20 people dead. The suspected shooter posted a racist screed onto the site prior to carrying out the attack. Following the shooting, Cloudflare, the company that provided cybersecurity to 8chan revoked its service and effectively forced the site offline. After securing another security service, 8chan’s host Epik, also pulled service.
According to Barr, Watkins may be asked to return to the committee in the future, and he hopes to have a publicized hearing. Thursday’s meeting happened behind closed doors with committee staffers, not lawmakers. It’s currently not clear when that next meeting might occur.
“We want to thank Mr. Watkins for his cooperation today,” committee leaders said in a statement following the meeting Thursday. “He provided vast and helpful information to the Committee about the structure, operation, and policies of 8Chan and his other companies. We look forward to his continued cooperation with the Committee as he indicated his desire to do so during today’s deposition.”