8chan has struggled with people being absolute cunts since its inception. People have tried using it to host everything from child pornography to terrorist manifestos to software documentation to cat pictures. And as of right now it's only accessible by entering its public IP address 18.104.22.168 - which breaks the site, as most links hardcode "8chan" instead of going with what the visitor used - or by visiting its .onion address, oxwugzccvk3dk6tj. Now there are hundreds of pissed off, rambunctious internet trolls with no home base, and a few pissed off regular people. What happened? What were people thinking?
Let's start with a timeline.
Some guy shot up some place, and posted a "manifesto" (let's just assume it's unironic for the time being) on several websites, including 8chan. Of course, it's impossible to determine right now if the actual shooter posted the manifesto or if someone just reposted it, there's not enough publicly available information.
Cloudflare sees a PR opportunity, suddenly shutting down its services provided to 8chan and concurrently sending out a press statement saying "we don't want/have to work with these people."
8chan struggles for a few hours before moving to Epik and Bitmitigate (owned and run by Epik), which is basically a smaller Cloudflare that doesn't own its own hardware and adopts a policy of "if you don't like what we're doing then come back with a court order."
Voxility, who rented out hardware to Epik, immediately pull the plug on Epik and its services.
8chan remains down on the clearnet, this may change or it may not.
Let's look at what this does and doesn't do.
make monitoring the site more difficult for media
make learning about and accessing the site more difficult
make attributing arbitrary events to 8chan easier.
This DOES NOT
make learning about and accessing the site impossible
remove the site's influence (if we go by Cloudflare and the legacy media's reasoning)
Why doesn't taking down the clearnet site remove 8chan's influence? Well, look at how many people have actually visited the site. Outside of certain circles, where it's not uncommon but certainly not universal, very few "normal" or "average" people have visited 8chan. And yet many know about it, and some fear it, because of the media stories about the site.
The media will continue to attribute events to the site, it's just too valuable a representation of "gaming" or "white nationalists" or "internet trolls" or "Russian operatives" or "pedophiles" or whatever they need it to be. Give a story a week's lead time and a journalist could in theory populate their own brand-new board with whatever content they think would support their story. 8chan is an instant news source, just add news.
But enough about why removing 8chan from the clearnet won't have too much of an effect. Let's look at why you should be either afraid of or angry with Cloudflare and Voxility, among other similar services. And maybe why they should be angry with their own decision.
Cloudflare already made the news a couple of times this year when their services went down (https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/blogs/cloudflare-owning-mistakes/). Now that they have made it very publicly known that they determine if you get the service you pay for by whether or not they like the site, rather than in a more neutral, legally grounded way, there is little reason for any new site to use the service. Not that any new site would really have a chance to gain traction anyway, but that's a problem for another article.
Existing sites should look at 8chan and worry: if someone can post something controversial and get the entire site taken down at a service level without warning, then every site should be wary of using that service. What happens when (not if) trolls begin posting shocking images or videos or whatever, reporting the website to cloudflare and friends, and watching the whole site go down? The only mitigation is heavy moderation or an understanding that the service would not be ended because of third party posts. If such an understanding came to light, any media outlet could bring it into the light and spin it as "So and so has an agreement with Cloudflare to host the worst content in the world without consequences." No winning there. And no winning with the moderation strategy, as the moment mods go to sleep, shit gets posted. And expecting people to moderate for free is a great way to get malicious moderation, or no moderation. Moderation for money is expensive, and few sites can afford that sort of commitment.
So what's the answer, besides "own your own metal" and "drop cloudflare and anyone like them"? I'm not sure there is one that doesn't involve a migration away from the current internet infrastructure. And even if a solution existed, if the right people didn't implement it then the exact same problems we face today would spring up.