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8chan’s founder is facing arrest for ‘cyberlibel’ in the Philippines

The Philippine criminal charge could carry jail time

PHILIPPINES-US-SHOOTINGS-INTERNET-8CHAN Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images

Fredrick Brennan, founder of widely loathed forum 8chan, reportedly faces arrest in the Phillippines over a “cyberlibel” claim. Brennan has become a strident critic of 8chan and its current operator Jim Watkins, whom Brennan transferred ownership to in 2015. Last year, Watkins struck back with a legal complaint, disputing a series of tweets where Brennan said he was “going senile.” Now, according to Philippine news site Rappler, there’s an official warrant out for Brennan’s arrest.

Rappler says that Brennan’s attorney confirmed details of the warrant. It reports that an assistant prosecutor in Pasay City claimed “there was malice in his tweets” and that Brennan “cannot prove whether Watkins was indeed senile.” Cyberlibel is a criminal charge that can carry a fine and multiyear prison sentence in the Philippines, where both men reside.

Brennan is currently in the United States, however. He tells Vice that he won’t return until the charges are dismissed, particularly because he was born with brittle bone disease and fears the prospect of being arrested. “It would basically be a death sentence even for only a week for somebody in my medically frail condition,” he said.

“Cyberlibel” is a specifically computer-related variant of the Philippines’ general libel law — one that’s reportedly produced a sharp uptick in libel complaints, including one highly publicized case against Rappler co-founder Maria Ressa. Its usage here is an extreme step in a battle that’s mostly taken place online.

Brennan founded 8chan as a less moderated alternative to 4chan, making it a home for the reactionary Gamergate movement in 2014. But he later soured on the site, and after it became a hothouse for mass shooters and the QAnon conspiracy theory, he began calling for its shutdown. When 8chan was knocked offline following a mass shooting in Texas, Brennan began sending complaints to companies that might resurrect it — though the site ultimately relaunched with a new name.

Watkins himself has been investigated by law enforcement in the Philippines over 8chan’s moderation policies. But no further action has been reported since then.