The message board was effectively knocked offline after two companies cut off vital technical services following the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, whose perpetrator posted his manifesto on the site.

A photograph featuring Javier Rodriguez, who was killed while shopping at Walmart, sits at a memorial three days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, US. August 6, 2019
A photograph featuring Javier Rodriguez, who was killed while shopping at Walmart, sits at a memorial three days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, US. August 6, 2019 (Reuters)

Online message board 8chan's fortunes worsened on Tuesday, as it was once again made homeless by a technical services provider and its owner was called to testify to the US Congress after 8chan was linked to a weekend mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

The House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee demanded that owner Jim Watkins, an American living in the Philippines, testify about 8chan's efforts to tackle "the proliferation of extremist content, including white supremacist content".

The committee's Democratic chairman, Bennie Thompson, and Mike Rogers, its ranking Republican, sent a letter to Watkins to appear, calling the El Paso massacre "at least the third act of supremacist violence linked to your website this year".

8chan was offline on Tuesday after Seattle-based Epik became the latest provider to cut ties. In a statement, Epik chief executive Rob Monster cited concerns about its inadequate enforcement and a greater possibility of violent radicalisation.

In the heavily Hispanic city of El Paso on Saturday, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store.

A racist
A racist "manifesto" posted on 8chan is believed to have been written by the suspect in a Saturday's killing of 22 people in El Paso, Texas. (Reuters)

Authorities have cited a lengthy anti-immigrant manifesto, apparently posted on 8chan by the suspect, as evidence of a racial motivate.

After the shooting, US cybersecurity firm CloudFlare withdrew services from 8chan, prompting it to sign up with Epik on Monday. Epik's own web infrastructure provider, Voxility, dropped it as a customer in response.

Epik still provides services to neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer and "free-speech" site Gab, as well as InfoWars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Monster said the anonymity on 8chan differentiated it from other sites. "Nobody has a vested interest in personal accountability since you always get a new persona," he said.

Online message board 8chan creator Fredrick Brennan during an interview in Manila, Philippines on August 6, 2019
Online message board 8chan creator Fredrick Brennan during an interview in Manila, Philippines on August 6, 2019 (Reuters)

A monster creation

Fredrick Brennan, who created 8chan in 2013, has called for the site to be closed down. 

"If I could go back and not create 8chan at all, I probably would," he said, likening it to Frankenstein's monster.

In a reply to the House committee, a copy of which was posted on Twitter, 8chan's Watkins said he was always available to talk by telephone.

"Rest assured I am not an extremist. My telephone should work worldwide," he said.

He argued earlier that the site provided a space for free speech.

"Think of 8chan as a large community of one million people that are now looking for a home," Watkins said in a video he posted on YouTube, with a shadowy likeness of American founding father Benjamin Franklin behind him.

Watkins said the Texas suspected gunman's manifesto was first uploaded not to 8chan but to Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company has found "nothing that supports this theory" in an investigation since Saturday. Facebook disabled the suspect's Instagram account, which had not been active in more than a year, she added. 

Source: Reuters