Jim Watkins, the owner of the online imageboard 8chan, has been issued a subpoena by the House Homeland Security Committee for testimony related to work on “countering extremist content on social media.” The testimony is scheduled for September 5, 2019 at 9:30 AM.
This comes after the same committee requested that Watkins appear before Congress to answer questions on how the site investigates and mitigates “extremist content.” Watkins responded to this initial request saying that he was happy to talk with the committee.
In a statement announcing the subpoena, the House Homeland Security Committee alleges that “At least 3 acts of deadly white supremacist extremist violence have been linked to 8chan in the last 6 months” and says that “receiving testimony from Mr. Watkins is critical to our oversight on this critical issue.”
The request and subpoena from House Homeland Security Committee come after many media outlets alleged that a racist manifesto had been posted to 8chan by the El Paso shooter before the shooting earlier this month.
As we reported previously, Watkins has disputed these allegations and claims that the El Paso shooter posted to Instagram, not 8chan. He says that a manifesto was later posted to 8chan but not by the El Paso shooter.
However, Facebook has pushed back against Watkins’ claims, saying it has “found nothing that supports this theory” and that the El Paso shooter’s Instagram account had not been active in over a year.
After the House Homeland Security Committee sent its initial request for Watkins to appear before Congress, Watkins said he was keeping 8chan offline voluntarily until he has spoken with the committee.
Since this initial request, 8chan has also been falsely accused of hosting the writings of a man who opened fire in a mosque in Oslo, Norway by numerous legacy media outlets, despite 8chan being offline at the time.
Twitter users are responding to news of the subpoena by questioning why platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which have also hosted violent content, are not being subpoenaed and suggesting that the subpoena was not necessary because Watkins publicly said that he’s willing to talk with the House Homeland Security Committee.
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