Recent investigations on the manifestos uploaded in 8chan by the suspects of the mass shooting incidents in the US and New Zealand led authorities to the Philippines where the creator of the imageboard website now resides.
8chan creator Fredrick Brennan voluntarily came to the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group in Camp Crame to help in the investigation.
According to Brennan, he created the 8chan imageboard website in 2013 but sold it to Jim Watkins in 2014. He said he left the company last year.
“By January 2015, he also owned the domain. Jim Watkins has been legally responsible, pretty much this entire time. What he has done is he has put the servers for 8chan in the US under the company called NT technology," he said.
"Luckily for me, I totally left this company just last year. And two years before that since 2016, I had broken my ties with 8chan,” Brennan said.
Jim Watkins is a war veteran who moved to the Philippines and owned a pig farm while running 8chan as administrator. He has left the country.
Brennan said Watkins should have restricted the users, and down the manifestos, and told users to stop incitement to violence.
“Of course, Jim Watkins was not the one uploading the manifestos siyempre. He's not him directly, pero its like he's not doing anything to tell the users, you know, ayoko 'to, I don't like this, bawal 'to. He's not really restricting it," Brennan said.
Brennan and Watkins’ names surfaced during investigation when gunmen posted manifestos on 8chan just before the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Christchurch, New Zealand and Poway, California.
Twenty people were killed during the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, while 51 people were killed in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in March.
A woman was killed and three were wounded during the mass shooting in a synagogue in Poway, California.
Brennan said extremists used 8chan to incite violence in some of its users.
“I have met here with the PNP, the Anti-Cybercrime Group, and I can see they are doing their best to deal with this problem. The Philippines was dragged into it and to protect their nation. I'm very happy to work with the PNP. I expected Jim Watkins to be the one to be doing this. He seemed to have left rather fast,” Brennan said.
“8chan was full of different topics. It had a board for Christians, different topics. There was a board for cooking, board for handicrafts, parang there is no controversy. But the thing is, because of these users who were extremists, that is where all the attention is coming from. But I'm not saying that every user of 8chan is an extremist, no,” he said.
Using his 8chan Twitter account, Watkins said he is on his way back to America and said he is not an extremist.
Watkins also released a video on YouTube saying that the El Paso shooter used a different social media site to upload the manifesto, something which Brennan debunked.
“It is very clear, from the archives that we have that it was first posted to 8chan before the name was released into the wires,” Brennan said.
The House Committee on Homeland Security of the United States has summoned Watkins.
Brennan said only a few Filipinos used 8chan.
“As far as I know, there is very little use by Filipinos of 8Chan. However, when I was its owner, there was some use, it's no zero. There were Filipino users of 8chan. The use of Filipinos of 8Chan is very very low. The main users of 8Chans were Americans,” he said.
PNP-ACG director Police Brig. Gen. Dennis Agustin said they are gathering materials and evidence to build on their case.
“Iniipon natin ang iba pang material, para ma-set ang legal issues, hindi nangyari sa atin dito. Magko-concentrate tayo sa mga post kung kaya pang i-recover, before we decide. Wala pa tayong legal concerns pa,” Agustin said.
ACG also urged Filipino netizens to refrain from browsing and joining hate websites.