MANILA - The owner of a website linked to mass shootings in the United States has said hate posts on the site were never tolerated.
Jim Watkins, owner of website 8chan, made the statement in an affidavit submitted to the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) through his attorney in the Philippines. The site had been linked to mass shootings in Christchurch, Poway and El Paso, Texas.
The PNP-ACG began investigation on 8chan after authorities said Watkins and the website's creator Fredrick Brennan lived in the Philippines.
According to Watkins’ lawyer, his client is currently in the US preparing for a congressional hearing. But Watkins has expressed willingness to cooperate in the ACG investigation.
Watkins mentioned in his statement that 8chan is now offline and that he plans to keep it shut.
"8ch.net is currently offline with no immediate plans to bring it back. The website was an anonymous social-media platform where users could post text and images. Similar to Facebook or Twitter, some users abused the system by posting illegal content," he said.
Watkins said anyone can create an image board. Anyone can also post messages or images in user-created boards without logging in or having an account.
"User-created boards sprung up around hobbies and interests, like video games, cartoons, fitness, cooking, politics, news, etc. The Board Owner of each individual board was in charge of making sure that his or her users followed the rules of the local board as well as the 8chan Global Rule. The 8chan Global Rule was the only immutable rule," Watkins said in his statement.
Watkins said 8chan had global volunteers who removed and reported illegal content posted on the image boards.
8chan also followed a global rule that said “Do no post, request, or link to any content that is illegal in the United States of America and do not create boards with the sole purpose of posting or spreading such content.”
Those who were caught violating the rule were banned and the sites were also deleted.
8chan had 15,000 boards with millions of content and texts posted daily.
Watkins said they took action on 967,413 reports where 27 boards were deleted for violating the global rule. A total of 50,032 complete threads were deleted and 3,002 individual files were removed.
On 2019, 25,689 users were banned from the site.
Watkins said the posts containing threat or violence like those posted by the 3 shooters in Christchurch, Poway and El Paso were clear violations and were deleted from the site.
PNP-ACG spokesperson Police Maj. Levy Lozada said even if the shootings did not have a direct connection with the Philippines, they would continue the investigation because Brennan and Watkins reside in the country.
He said the ACG would wait for possible coordination from US authorities.
So far, PNP-ACG has not monitored hate sites in the country but cyber patrollers are constantly monitoring social media accounts of persons of interest believed to be members of local terrorist groups, he said.
"So far wala pa naman tayong namo-monitor sa Pilipinas na website na nagke-cater sa message for extremism. May binabantayan tayong local accounts ng mga terrorist sa social media accounts nila," Lozada said.
(So far we have not monitored in the Philippines websites catering to messages related to extremism. We are watching over local accounts of [terror suspects], their social media accounts.)