8chan, also called Infinitychan, is an American imageboard website composed of user-created boards. Each board is moderated by its owner, with minimal interaction from other site administration. To own a board one must either create it or claim it if the board has had inactivity for over a week.
The site allows any content to be posted, so long as it adheres to United States law.
Several of the site's boards have played an active role in the Gamergate controversy, encouraging Gamergate affiliates to frequent 8chan after the topic was banned on the unaffiliated imageboard 4chan. The site has been linked to Internet subcultures and activism.
As of August 2015, the site was the 10,204th most visited site in the world, and in November 2014, it was receiving an average of 35,000 unique visitors per day and 400,000 posts per week when it was at a higher rank.
8chan was created in October 2013 by computer programmer Fredrick Brennan, also known by the nickname "Hotwheels." Brennan created the website after he observed what he perceived to be rapidly escalating surveillance and a loss of free speech on the Internet. Brennan, who considers the imageboard 4chan to have grown into authoritarianism, describes 8chan as a "free-speech-friendly" alternative, and originally conceptualized the site while experiencing a psychedelic mushrooms trip.
No experience or programming knowledge is necessary for users to create their own boards. Since as early as March 2014, its FAQ has stated only one rule that is to be globally enforced: "Do not post, request, or link to any content illegal in the United States of America. Do not create boards with the sole purpose of posting or spreading such content." Brennan has claimed that, while he finds some of the content posted by users to be "reprehensible," he feels personally obligated to uphold the site's integrity by tolerating discussion he does not necessarily support regardless of his moral stance.
In January 2015, the site changed its domain 8chan.co to 8ch.net after multiple people filed reports complaining to 8chan’s registrar that the message board hosted child pornography. Despite subsequently regaining the domain, the site remained at 8ch.net, with the old domain redirecting to it.
Numerous bugs in the Infinity software led to the funding and development of a successor platform dubbed "Infinity Next". After a several-month-long testing period, a migration to the new software was attempted in December 2015, but failed.[clarification needed] In January 2016, development was halted, and the main developer, Joshua Moon, was fired by Brennan. Brennan himself would officially resign in July 2016, turning the site over to its owner, Jim Watkins and his son, Ron. He cited the failure of the "Infinity Next" project and disillusionment with what 8chan had become as reasons.
The Washington Post described it as "the more-lawless, more-libertarian, more 'free' follow-up to 4chan." Boards have been created to discuss topics such as child rape. While the sharing of illegal content is against site rules, The Daily Dot wrote that boards do exist to share sexualized images of minors in provocative poses, and that some users of those boards do post links to explicit child pornography hosted elsewhere. When asked whether such boards were an inevitable result of free speech, Brennan responded, "Unfortunately, yes. I don’t support the content on the boards you mentioned, but it is simply the cost of free speech and being the only active site to not impose more 'laws' than those that were passed in Washington, D.C."
On September 18, 2014, the website gained prominence in the Gamergate controversy after 4chan banned discussion of Gamergate, whereupon 8chan became one of several hubs of Gamergate activity. "/gg/," 8chan's initial Gamergate-oriented board, also gained attention after being compromised by members of the internet troll group Gay Nigger Association of America, forcing Gamergate activists to migrate to "/gamergate/." This replacement quickly became the site's second most populous board.
In January 2015 the site was used as a base for swatting exploits in Portland, Seattle, and Burnaby, British Columbia, most of them tied to the victims' criticism of Gamergate and 8chan's association with it; the attacks were coordinated on a board on the website called "/baphomet/." One of the victims of a swatting attack said that she was singled out because she had followed someone on Twitter. On February 9, 2015, contents on the "/baphomet/" subboard were wiped after personal information of Katherine Forrest, the presiding judge in the Silk Road case, had been posted there.
In July 2016, US presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with a background of money and a six pointed star, seen by some as resembling the Star of David containing the message "Most corrupt candidate ever". The image had been posted to 8chan's /pol/ board as early as June 22, over a week before Trump's team tweeted it. CBC News called 8chan an alt-right forum.
During 2018, a group called "Operation Rescue" promoted a conspiracy theory called "The Storm", which gathered support across Twitter and other parts of the Internet. The controversey centers on a user that refers to himself as “Q” and promotes theories about a "deep state". Sean Hannity has notably retweeted QAnon hashtags on his twitter feed. A group on Reddit was banned on March 14, 2018 over promoting the conspiracy theory. The conspiracy has been linked with the conspiracy theory "Pizzagate". The conspiracy has also been linked to the hashtag, "#FollowTheWhiteRabbit".