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ISP's blocking 8chan: Chief Censor's statement

Posted on 09 August 2019 by Information Unit

The website 8chan has been an online forum of choice – and a key source of inspiration – for numerous mass shooting suspects in the past few months. Most recently, the alleged perpetrator of the massacre in El Paso, Texas, released a so-called ‘manifesto’ on the website outlining his reasons for the attack and expressing support for the Christchurch terror attack. In the past week cyber-security company Cloudflare terminated services for 8chan, effectively shutting down the site. In NZ, Internet Service Provider (ISP) Spark has just made headlines for promising to block the site if and when it reappears. 

A recent Guardian article features the response from Chief Censor David Shanks. You can read his full statement below:

Statement from Chief Censor David Shanks, 9 August 2019

I applaud the announcement by Spark that they are prepared to block access to 8chan if and when it re-emerges on the internet.

This move is both brave and meaningful.  Brave, because a decision not to provide users with access to a site is quite a different thing from a decision not to provide a site with the server capacity and services it needs (which is the choice that Cloudflare recently made).  Meaningful, because everything I have seen tells me that 8chan is the white supremacist killer’s platform of choice, with at least three major attacks announced on it within a few months.  There is nothing indicating that upon re-emergence 8chan will be a changed, safer platform.  Indeed, it may be even more toxic.

We appreciate that our domestic ISP’s have obligations to provide their customers with access to the internet according to their individual terms and conditions.  Within those constraints, as the experience post the March 15 attacks show, our ISP’s can act and do the right thing to block platforms that are linked to terrorist atrocities and pose a direct risk of harm to New Zealanders.

I know that ISPs don’t take these decisions lightly, and that they do not want to be in the business of making judgments around the content of sites. But these are extraordinary circumstances, and platforms that promote terrorist atrocities should not be tolerated on the internet, or anywhere else.  Spark is making the right call here.

This is a unique set of circumstances, and relying on ISPs to make these calls is not a solution for the mid or long term.  I agree with calls for a transparent, robust and sensible regulatory response. Discussions have already started on what this might look like here in NZ.  Ultimately this is a global, internet problem.  That makes it complex of course, but I believe that online extremism can be beaten if governments, industry and the public work together.  

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