Founder of site linked to mass shootings faces arrest over cyberlibel charge

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The founder of a website linked to several mass shootings in the US and New Zealand faces arrest in the Philippines for a cyberlibel complaint filed by the website’s current owner.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — The founder of a website linked to several mass shootings in the US and New Zealand is facing arrest in the Philippines over a cyberlibel charge initiated by the website’s current owner.

The Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 158 issued Wednesday a warrant of arrest for 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan, his lawyer Alexander Acain Jr. told CNN Philippines.

Acain said he will recommend Brennan — who is currently in the United States — to return to the Philippines and post bail. But he said that it is up to Brennan whether or not to heed his recommendation.

The case involves a series of supposedly libelous tweets where Brennan called 8chan owner James Arthur “Jim” Watkins “senile” and “incompetent.”

The warrant came more than a month after the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office found probable cause to charge Brennan for violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

“They are a malicious imputation of senility on the part of [Watkins,] a condition, status or circumstance tending to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt of [him,]” Pasig City Assistant Prosecutor Juliene Raymond Cabanacan said in an eight-page resolution issued January 2 and received by Brennan’s camp on February 19.

The prosecutor also said that Brennan failed to prove that Watkins was actually senile.

If found guilty, Brennan, who has a disability, may be jailed for six to 12 years.

Brennan’s tweets were in reaction to Watkins’ testimony before the US Congress in September 2019, where he was grilled over 8chan’s links to at least three racist violent incidents last year.

The 8chan founder is asking Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to overturn the prosecutor’s resolution, arguing that his tweets were not libelous, defamatory or motivated by malice, and that Watkins is a public figure who did not suffer any harm.

In a 26-page petition sent Thursday to Guevarra and seen by CNN Philippines, Brennan argued that his tweets were protected speech as they are “fair commentary on a matter of public interest.”

He said that he “was merely exercising his civic duty to inform the public about the people operating a website that hosted hate speech and white nationalist creed because it has already claimed the lives of many innocent people.”

Brennan shrugged off Watkins’ cyberlibel complaint in an interview with CNN Philippines in October 2019, even suggesting that the suit was just filed to intimidate him as he is opposing the 8chan owner’s bid to become a Filipino citizen.

Brennan created 8chan in 2013 and eventually turned over ownership of the website to Watkins, but stayed on as an administrator until 2016. Since then, he has completely severed ties with the messageboard since then and has expressed that the current administrators of the website "are running it in a way that is indefensible."

READ: Creator of website linked to US shooting cooperating in PNP probe

8chan, now known as 8kun, is an online messaging board that has been used by anonymous accounts to share extremist messages and cheer on mass shooters. It is rife with racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

CNN has reported that at least three atrocities have been linked to the messageboard, including the shooting in El Paso, Texas, which killed 22 and injured 24 others.