Memes are designed to spread, and 8chan happened to be the base for those who knew that, on the Internet, a share — even when the person sharing is condemning you — is still a victory. The goal is attention. After the El Paso shooting, anonymous 8chan posters encouraged each other to create more “OC,” or “original content” about the shooting. The audience for that content wasn’t other racists, it was everyone. Journalists know to look at 8chan after racist violence because there might be a connection; 8chan treats members of the mainstream press like the audience at a concert.
Simply pulling the plug on online cesspools has had mixed results: Reddit has banned some of the worst discussion boards that once thrived on the site in recent years, forcing users to flee to alternative places that have promised not to censor their content. Individual personalities, including Alex Jones, have struggled to retain the size of their audiences after being kicked off mainstream platforms such as YouTube. And while the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer has managed to stay online in some form, its traffic did diminish after mainstream companies stopped providing hosting services to the site following the deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, said Rebecca Lewis, a research affiliate at Data & Society Research Institute who studies far-right political subcultures online.
It’s not clear what effect the current deplatforming of 8chan will have. “Practically speaking, any downtime is going to be detrimental to an organizing space like 8chan,” Lewis said. “It takes away their immediate ability to organize, and also their sense of security,” she said.