Minutes before the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting attack that left 49 people killed and 40 injured, a violent and hateful manifesto appeared on 8chan along with a link to a Facebook livestream that would show the shootings. A YouTube video posted 10 days later shows 8chan owner Jim Watkins refuting that the forum or other social media platforms should be held responsible or censored in the wake of the shooting.
Watkins owns 8chan, 2channel (the Japanese board 2channel that inspired 4chan and 8chan), and NT Technologies, which according to BuzzFeed News “manages several web properties.”
In the video, which was uploaded March 25 and as of the time of writing has 396 views, Watkins rebukes calls for heavier policing of hate speech on 8chan, Facebook, and other social media platforms. He asserts that New Zealand police could not have known about the shooter’s posts in advance “without resorting to Orwellian police tactics.”
“All they had to find him was a solitary post on a bulletin board with a link to a Facebook livestream moments before his terrifying and gruesome act of senseless violence,” Watkins says. “This is not the fault of NT Technology for providing the medium to announce his livestream. This is not the fault of Facebook to allow for allowing his live-action footage to stream as it happened. These are just tools that millions of people use daily.”
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other social media sites were heavily criticized in the wake of the shooting, with many calling for the platforms to take more firm action against hate speech. Reddit banned two forums containing hateful rhetoric after the attack.
At the same time that Watkins advocated for free speech—the core tenet of 8chan, which is known for hosting gruesome, violent content—he acknowledged that “you are responsible for the consequences of what you say.”
“An announcement of an upcoming murder, giving a time and a place, or maybe even a target, is criminal, is not protected speech,” Watkins says. “Anyone who utters such things should expect to be arrested.”
Watkins said “NT Technology is cooperating fully with enforcement,” then warned “vicious trolls” that “their speech is not protected by law—or me.”