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Dec. 13, 2019

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Epik reverses course, says BitMitigate will not support 8chan

Controversial site had signed up for services on Monday

By , Columbian business reporter
Published: August 6, 2019, 4:36pm

Seattle-based internet domain registration company Epik announced Tuesday it will not provide services to 8chan, the online message board that has gained notoriety as a haven for white supremacists, including the suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

“Upon careful consideration of the recent operating history of 8chan, and in the wake of tragic news in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend, Epik has elected to not provide content delivery services to 8chan,” the company wrote in a blog post on its website. “This is largely due to the concern of inadequate enforcement and the elevated possibility of violent radicalization on the platform.”

Epik’s announcement marks a reversal, coming one day after 8chan’s owner tweeted that he had begun using BitMitigate, a subsidiary of Epik, to protect 8chan from Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attacks, which seek to knock websites offline by overloading them with traffic and crashing their servers.

Cloudflare, a major industry provider of DDoS protection, announced Sunday that it would no longer provide services to 8chan. The decision came after it was revealed that the El Paso gunman apparently posted a manifesto to 8chan shortly before the attack — the third time since March that an alleged mass shooter has used the platform to spread white supremacist ideology.

Epik’s decision to similarly ditch 8chan is notable because Epik and BitMitigate have both previously made headlines for their willingness to provide services to websites that had been dropped by other industry players due to white supremacist content — in Epik’s case, the social media network Gab, and for BitMitigate, the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

BitMitigate was founded in Vancouver and was acquired by Epik in February. Founder Nicholas Lim told The Columbian on Monday he works for Epik on a contractor basis to help maintain BitMitigate but no longer controls the service and was not involved in the decision to provide service to 8chan.

Lim and Epik CEO Rob Monster have previously offered similar explanations for their no-limits client criteria, casting the issue as one of free speech and arguing that providers of domain registration, security and other online services should not be deciding whether specific content ought to be blocked from the internet.

But in the Tuesday blog post, titled “Epik draws the line on Acceptable Use,” the company stated it reserves the right to deny services to websites that can’t adequately moderate user-generated content, and cited inadequate enforcement as a reason for refusing to serve 8chan.

Epik confirmed that 8chan’s domains were transferred over to the company early Monday morning, after 8chan reached out due to Epik’s public stance about online free speech. However, Epik wrote that it “remained reticent in the interim to provide a definitive statement” about providing services to 8chan.

8chan briefly came back online Monday morning, but a few hours later, an internet infrastructure company called Voxility — which had leased servers to Epik — announced it would be cutting the company off from its own services due to 8chan’s use of BitMitigate.

Epik’s Tuesday blog post did not mention Voxility by name but stated that a “critical network provider” discontinued service for Epik on Monday, which did not disrupt Epik’s core domain registration service but did temporarily render BitMitigate inoperable; the subsidiary’s website was offline Monday afternoon, and 8chan was knocked back offline as well.

BitMitigate is now back online, according to Epik’s blog post, although Epik did not provide details about how the service was restored.

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