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8chan owner Jim Watkins defends the First Amendment before congress, could be back online within days

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Benjamin Barr, a First Amendment lawyer who represented 8chan owner Jim Watkins during his testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee today, is suggesting that the site could be back online as early as next week.

Watkins was subpoenaed to testify in relation to the committee’s work on “countering extremist content on social media” in August. The subpoena came after several media outlets alleged that the El Paso shooter had posted a manifesto to 8chan before the shooting.

Watkins took 8chan offline voluntarily in August and said he would keep it offline until today’s testimony. In prepared remarks for the House Homeland Security Committee, Watkins said he believes that keeping the website offline has censored voices around the world:

“It has censored and silenced the voices of those across our country. It has also censored those in other societies where our forum was the only outlet available to express themselves safely.”

Watkins added that he would endeavor to get the site back online “in the near future” but “only when 8chan is able to develop additional tools to counter illegal content under United States law.”

While 8chan is working on tools to help with the takedown of illegal content, Watkins also reiterated the site’s commitment to the First Amendment and said:

“My company has no intention of deleting constitutionally protected hate speech. I feel the remedy for this type of speech is counter speech, and I’m certain that this is the view of the American justice system.”

After Watkins testified to the House Homeland Security Committee, Barr provided more specifics on when 8chan could be back online and said: “This isn’t written in stone, but somewhere around a week, they hope to be back.”

Barr added that he believes that the tools Watkins described in his testimony are complete. However, the site is still “working on having a stable hosting solution where they can’t be deplatformed or it will be a lot more difficult to deplatform them.”

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