The media want to make a scapegoat out of platforms that have untethered free speech. Even when they clearly aren’t at fault.
In a report about a shooter who attacked a mosque in Oslo, Norway on August 10, The New York Times reported that the killer posted to 8chan, a chat platform which was blamed for the El Paso massacre. The only problem with the Times’ story? 8chan has been down for seven days, because its network provider pulled the plug.
The story, with its mistake, stayed up for 22 hours before the correction was posted. The one paragraph in question read, “About two hours before the attack, a post appeared on 8chan, the message board that had hosted the anti-immigrant manifesto of the man accused of the El Paso shooting. The post raised questions of whether it could have been written by the shooting suspect.”
8chan tweeted, “How could the suspect's post have ‘appeared on 8chan’ if 8chan has been offline for close to a week?”
The Times eventually removed the false information and posted a correction that said: “Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified the message board on which the suspect in the attack posted messages before the mosque attack. While it was an online message board, it was not 8chan.” However, the Times does not name the “online message board” used.
In a video from his YouTube channel, 8chan owner Jimmy Watkins stated: “I’ve noticed that an American newspaper has printed that I had something to do with it, and I wanted to let you know that I did not. In fact, my website has been offline for a week, although it says that two hours before the shooting in Norway that they had posted on my website, 8chan. This is not true, because the website has been offline voluntarily for the past week.”
The Verge wrote and then rescinded a whole piece on the danger of 8chan, relying on the veracity of the Times. 8chan’s official Twitter account posted, “How could the Oslo shooter have posted on 8chan if 8chan has been offline for close to a week? You’re actually fake news.”
The Verge, Vox’s tech magazine, even cited “screenshots of 8chan post” and stated: “the shooter referenced the Christchurch, New Zealand shooter, and that he attempted to live-stream the attack on Facebook, but was unable to do so.” However, the 8chan post didn’t exist, so it is doubtful as to where the Verge got its information. The outlet took the story down and tweeted, "Note: we have taken down an earlier story about a suspected post on 8chan from an alleged shooter because it contained unverified information and did not meet our editorial standards. We regret the error."
8chan has been offline since the morning of August 5, when it’s network provider Cloudflare pulled its services and left the site stranded. The media blamed 8chan for the El Paso shooting, even though Watkins publicly claimed in the Wall Street Journal that the shooter did not upload his 4 page manifesto to 8chan.