Just two days after temporarily helping 8chan get back online, Epik has changed its mind.
The Seattle-area company said Tuesday that it will not provide web hosting service for 8chan, a website tied to far-right extremism and connected to a mass shooting 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,” Epik said in a statement. “This is largely due to the concern of inadequate enforcement and the elevated possibility of violent radicalization on the platform.”
A 21-year-old man accused of killing 22 people in a Walmart on Saturday published a manifesto laden with racist rhetoric to 8chan. Epik was in the spotlight for helping get 8chan back online after network provider Cloudflare cut ties with the site following the shooting; Cloudflare called 8chan “a cesspool of hate” in a statement.
It worked, but only temporarily. Epik rents servers from a third-party called Voxility to power its BitMitigate hosting service, an alternative to services such as Cloudflare. When Voxility realized 8chan traffic was moving through its network, Epik got the boot, preventing 8chan from getting back online.
In a press release titled ‘Epik draws line on Acceptable Use,’ Epik outlined the chain of events over the past few days. The company said its BitMitigate service — which made headlines in 2017 when it rescued the neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer — is restored.
“Our technology is fully capable of routing them but we elected not do so for reasons that the statement clarifies,” Epik CEO Rob Monster told GeekWire in an email.
Epik has made a habit of servicing websites that other providers rejected, sticking to its declared stance of “lawful free speech.” Last year, the company agreed to host domain registrar services for Gab.com after GoDaddy dropped the site. GoDaddy severed ties with Gab because the shooter charged with killing 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue used the site to post anti-Semitic messages.
Here’s more explanation of its stance from Epik’s press release issued Tuesday:
Epik actively supports lawful content, community, and commerce. As a matter of policy, management seeks to provide customers with solutions without bias or favoritism vis-à-vis race, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. If a given content is legal, Epik endeavors to empower anyone to participate whether as producer or consumer. With the prevalence of user-generated content, including in fast-growing public forums, timely enforcement of Terms of Service can prove extremely difficult, notably in cases where a site has little in the way of revenue model with which to fund the services of professional moderators. In cases whereby Epik identifies a particular publisher as being under-equipped to properly enforce its own Terms of Service, Epik reserves the right to deny service.
In a phone interview with GeekWire Tuesday evening, Monster said 8chan paid Epik on Monday for domain registrations. A domain name search on ICANN shows that Epik is the registrar for 8ch.net. Monster said Epik would help 8chan sell the domain names, if needed.
Maria Sirbu, Voxility’s vice president of business development, told GeekWire Tuesday that “we are not negotiating with Epik and we will not reinstall services for them under no circumstances.”
“We are still operating an internal investigation to make sure they do not end up taking services from other networks relying on Voxility infrastructure,” she said. “So far we didn’t find any connections between the new networks helping them and Voxility.”
Monster told GeekWire on Monday that Epik did not solicit business from 8chan, which “showed up late Sunday night, unannounced and unsolicited.”
8chan was still offline as of Tuesday evening. The site is under intense scrutiny this week; Congress has summoned 8chan owner Jim Watkins to testify. The company’s founder told The New York Times that the site should be shut down.
Sammamish, Wash.-based physical mail provider MailPost told GeekWire Tuesday that it was booting Epik as a customer because of its ties to 8chan.