Forbes:After The New Zealand Terror Attack,Here’s Why 8ch Won’t Be Wiped From The Web
Shortly before the attack, in what appeared to be posts from the alleged shooter, links to a Facebook livestream of the killings were shared on Zig Forums. Social media channels later struggled to remove copies of that stream, while his 74-page “manifesto” also spread from Zig Forums across the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
Long known as a haven for extremist, right-wing thought, and a wilder version of the already unruly 4Chan, the Zig Forums forum has courted controversy in the past. In 2015, for instance, users of the fringe site started a campaign to boycott Star Wars because it had black and female leads. In the same year, child pornography appeared on Zig Forums, leading Google to delist it. Channels that appear to advertise child-abuse material remain live on the site today.
If the New Zealand terrorist really was radicalized on Zig Forums, and if there’s such a cornucopia of appalling material on the forum, what should be done to counter extremism and illegal activity on the site? Should it be taken down entirely?
One company that’s helped keep the site secure and easily accessible is U.S. internet infrastructure and security provider Cloudflare.
But Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince did make one exception: During the 2017 Charlottesville riots, the Daily Stormer was ditched after it claimed Cloudflare secretly shared its extreme, neo-Nazi ideology.
Zig Forums will not be getting the boot, even though today it’s easy to find users promoting violence and links to possible child-exploitation material. Alissa Starzak, Cloudflare’s head of policy, defended the services' actions, saying that that taking away support for Zig Forums wouldn’t remove it from the internet. Just like getting rid of a terrorist’s electricity supply or preventing them from buying groceries, cutting off Cloudflare would do little to deal with the problem, Starzak told Forbes.
Website moderators are the ones who are there to remove content, not Cloudflare, she added. “We're the Fedex of the internet, passing messages on, not looking inside the boxes,” she explained.
If Clouflare did pull the plug, it’d be possible to see who the host of the website was. From there it’d be easier for governments to request the host pull the site. It’d also be easier for anyone willing to break the law and carry out a DDoS attack to knock the forum offline.
Forbes attempted to contact the founder of Zig Forums and admins for the site, but received no response
What to do about Zig Forums then? Patrick Pugh is physical security analyst at Flashpoint, which analyses sites like Zig Forums where extremist material appears. Freedom of speech laws prevent government intervention, but easily accessible platforms aren’t as restricted, Pugh says. They can therefore help drive extremists underground by removing their content and depriving them of technologically reliable hosting platforms.
“While this may make it harder for investigators to discover, it will also make it harder for folks susceptible to radicalization to find,” Pugh told Forbes. “Discussion of ‘traitors,’ ‘invaders,’ and needing to do something ‘in real life,’ or ‘IRL,’ are the watchwords for investigators trying to find a particular needle, not in a haystack, but in a stack of needles," he added.
What’s required, she added, was a big public policy push with players from among national governments and private companies allowing such sites to exist.
No one has yet come up with a suitable answer to the intractable question: How do you clean the internet of dangerous words that encourage evil deeds?