FBI Serves Incredibly Broad Warrant To 8chan, Demanding Info On All Users Who Responded To A Shooter's Post

from the not-how-probable-cause-works dept

Internet hellhole 8chan has been hit with a federal search warrant. The site, created to serve those who felt 4chan’s nearly-nonexistent moderation was too restrictive, has been front and center recently due to its hosting of manifestos by mass shooters who apparently frequented the site.

In this case, an investigation into a shooting at a California mosque has led the FBI to the pages of 8chan. Postings at the site — along with some at Facebook — have linked the shooter to the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand. According to the affidavit [PDF], the FBI believes the California mosque shooter was “inspired and/or educated” by the New Zealand’s shooters manifesto and actions.

The Poway shooter is already in custody, so the value of the information sought here is questionable. While the info may have some value in establishing the shooter’s state of mind, as well as his connection to other crimes, the warrant does bear some resemblance to a fishing expedition.

From the affidavit, it appears the feds have no shortage of evidence to use against the shooter:

Using various search methods, Whitney Buckingham an SDSD system data miner, found a manifesto on Pastebin.com written by a person identifying himself as John Earnest. In the manifesto, which he named “An Open Letter”, Earnest made many anti-Semitic and anti-muslim statements. One such statement which is a direct quote is, “As an individual, I can only kill so many Jews.” He states he is not a terrorist but that he hates anyone who he sees as a threat to his country. Earnest took credit for a fire that had been set at mosque in Escondido a few weeks earlier. His exact statement was “I scorched a mosque in Escondido with gasoline a week after Brenton Tarrant’s sacrifice and they never found shit on me. Additionally, he wrote “I spray-painted on the parking lot. I wrote ‘For Brenton Tarrant -t./pol/.”

Tarrant is the New Zealand shooter Earnest apparently tried to emulate. Obviously, the threat of copycat killers is always a concern following mass shootings, but what the government is demanding here has the potential to sweep up dozens of users who did nothing but reply to threads involving the arrested shooter.

Agents seek IP address and metadata information about Earnest’s original posting and the postings of all of the individuals who responded to the subject posting and/or commented about it. Additionally, agents seek information about any other posting coming from the IP address used by Earnest to post the subject posting.

This seems like a lot of people to be investigating for just being in the wrongest place on the internet at the wrong time. The justification for this is speculation that others who viewed the post will either become shooters themselves or somehow conspired with the shooter to carry out this horrible crime in which Earnest was the only shooter.

As discussed above, Earnest made a posting in which he thought to draw attention to his forthcoming attack on the Chabad of Poway, share his views through his open letter, and offer people the opportunity to observe the attack itself. Several people responded, both individuals who were taken aback about the posting as well as people who were sympathizers. As a result, some of the individuals may be potential witnesses, co-conspirators and/ or individuals who are inspired by the subject posting. Based on agents’ training and experience, following attacks such as those conducted by Earnest, other individuals are inspired by the attacks and may act of their own accord.

By its own admission, the FBI is seeking information about posters “taken aback” by Earnest’s post — users unlikely to be “inspired” by the shooting or his co-conspirators. Apparently, the FBI doesn’t trust 8chan to make that assessment, so it’s asking for everything so it can sort through it and draw its own conclusions, engage in its own “non-custodial” interviews, subpoena a number of other service providers for more info, etc.

In fact, the FBI would prefer Ch.net — the host for 8chan — just hand over everything demanded by the warrant without getting involved at all.

In order to accomplish the objective of the search warrant with a minimum of interference with the business activities of Ch.net, to protect the rights of the subject of the investigation and to effectively pursue this investigation, authority is sought to allow Ch.net to make a digital copy of the entire contents of the accounts subject to seizure.

However you may feel about 8chan and its denizens (and I hope those feelings are mostly negative), this is not a justifiable demand for information. The FBI wants everything on everyone in that thread, even as it states some of the users it’s targeting were appalled by what they were seeing. This makes everyone in the thread a suspect and treats anonymous users of this site as inherently suspicious, no matter what their posts actually say.

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Companies: 8chan, ch.net

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Comments on “FBI Serves Incredibly Broad Warrant To 8chan, Demanding Info On All Users Who Responded To A Shooter's Post”

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50 Comments
Runny Babbit says:

The FBI provocateurs particularly to set up "white nationalists"

I bet Techdirt fanboys will conveniently forget how they hate the FBI at other times, been MANY pieces here of them setting up patsies, and now because this hits their template will believe entirely as more evidence that "white nationalists" must be ruthlessly suppressed by al means necessary. Indeed, that’s why the minion re-wrote it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Runny Babbit

Re: You don’t know how propaganda works, "Stone"

I think 8chan is shit and its userbase is equally horrible. I also think the Feebs went too far here. The two opinions are not mutually exclusive.

See my addition.

It’s not mutually exclusive, either, that the minion wishes to attack "white nationalists", as indeed you frequently do, believe in open borders at the least, along with the FBI — because the latter is still, despite problems, somewhat fighting crime. So the whole piece is a two-fer.

AND FOURTH TIME TODAY, browser just stopped working. Past coincidence. No other reason than censoring.

Runny Babbit says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, that one didn’t get in until as you see, the forms not filled out. Way past coincidence.

And faster disappearing too! Ithink it’s Timothy Geigner, aka "Dark Helmet", acting Administrator for the site, not "the community".

After all, just prior topic is that sites can "moderate" arbitrarily!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Try using a better connection to the internet, update your browser, remove all the add-one and extra search bars and other bloatware from your browser, run some AV software on your system, uninstall/disable all the extra background software and services on your system that is bloatware, get a little more ram, clear some swap space on your HDD, and then you probably won’t have stuff slowing down and the browser breaking so much.

And before you respond with how good your system specs are, know that no one here cares what you have and just take the free advice above to fix your issue.

Or you could just stop worrying about what others say online and go live your physical life or adopt a new hobby. Or maybe get some meds for your poor mental state.

Your posts got blocked fast because people reading the article consider your posts spam/annoying/trolling/too stupid to exist. Just because they dont post doesn’t mean they didnt flag your posts for the garbage that they usually are after reading the article. As many have said before its not the site that ia the problem, you are your own problem.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not mutually exclusive, either, that the minion wishes to attack "white nationalists" […] along with the FBI — because the latter is still, despite problems, somewhat fighting crime.

So what? Someone can say “the FBI is fighting crime and that’s a good thing” while also admitting that the FBI does awful things (like, say, turning some random schmuck into a potential terrorist so the fed can pat themselves on the back for stopping “terrorism” after they arrest the dumb bastard) on a regular basis. Again: Those two positions are not mutually exclusive. Oh, and criticism of the Feds’ misdeeds is not automatic/implied support for criminals of any kind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

i admit it. i write scriots tbat mysteriously lock up browsers and post them invisibly in the comments here. they only affect you because i know exactly who you are, and watch you on live feed from a satellite almost 24•7 and intercept all your digital communications.

sorry

Runny Babbit says:

Re: The FBI provocateurs particularly to set up "white nati

To be clear: first and last paragraphs hit hard minion’s real theme of dangerous "white nationalists". The bit against FBI is just filler between the two key points:

hosting of manifestos by mass shooters who apparently frequented the site.

No prejudice there, eh? Pointed up again:

(and I hope those feelings are mostly negative)

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The FBI Trolls

No, you "get" it the way your prejudice and hatred has it. You are LYING.

Lying? I don’t think you know what that word actually means anymore Blue Balls.

Did I misrepresent a fact, or state an opinion?
Have you or someone other AC said things that would support my opinion? The answer is Yes.

You in particular rail against the Zionist threat, open borders, and left-wing oppression. Which ALL ALIGN WITH the views of the shooter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They may have also bought coffee at the deli that I go to, but that doesn’t mean the FBI should be investigating everyone who buys coffee there. General warrants are unconstitutional and the FBI are a bunch of police state assholes that are a far greater threat to the freedom and safety of every American than any random nutjob.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And that is the core point of the article. Stephen T Stone is responding to our resident troll claiming that the statement at the beginning of the article that mass shooters who frequented a website posted manifestos means Tim was inherently biased against….something – I think white nationalism, but his posting style makes things difficult.

But nothing contextually suggests to me that Stephen supports this subpoena, in fact other statements in this thread proclaim he does not, and part of why he is involved in this thread is because the troll started off suggesting we will support the FBI because we dislike the nationalists.

Runny Babbit says:

Re: Re: The FBI provocateurs particularly to set up "white natio

You’re just not very smart, are you?

No, I’m an idiot and unable to think for myself. I normally follow the alt-right extremist voices in my head and go along with whatever they say. I shitpost on Techdirt because nobody else will even respond to my incoherent rambling.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The FBI provocateurs particularly to set up "white n

No, I’m an idiot and unable to think for myself. I normally follow the alt-right extremist voices in my head and go along with whatever they say. I shitpost on Techdirt because nobody else will even respond to my incoherent rambling.

This is the only truthful thing I have ever heard from you!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The FBI provocateurs particularly to set up &amp

Except you’re not ignoring it. You’re replying, and the replies clutter up the thread long after the original message is hidden. Stop it. Flag the comment, give it half an hour, and forget about it if it’s been hidden by then. A thread full of hidden comments and visible namecalling replies isn’t useful to anyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

This makes everyone in the thread a suspect and treats anonymous users of this site as inherently suspicious, no matter what their posts actually say.

Let’s hope people wanting to be anonymous, especially when posting on such an infamous site, are actually taking measures to be anonymous–ie. not posting from their regular IP address.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Data retention requirements exist in Europe (but are being legally disputed), but not generally in the USA. There are some sites that claim to keep no logs of anything, or to delete daily. Others might log only posting but not viewing. Legally that’s all fine (excepting industry-specific regulations e.g. for banking sites).

That doesn’t mean a hosting or access provider couldn’t log on its own (SSL helps but doesn’t hide IP addresses). A site that really wanted to protect its users would use a .onion address exclusively. The only notable legitimate sites doing this are whistleblowing sites (like SecureDrop instances).

Anonymous Coward says:

A Little Violation Goes a Long Way

"…just hand over everything demanded by the warrant without getting involved at all."

Just ignore the violations of your clients’ privacy that compliance with our demands would entail. Let us do the heavy-lifting on the bigger violations of Constitutional rights…we’re pros – we know lots more about how to violate people’s rights than you do.

Also, that’s a nice, little hosting operation you got there. Be a real shame if anything was to happen to it.

Anonymous Coward says:

This all could have been avoided if society treated white nationalists, and other wayward people as people instead of an enemy that needs to be crushed.

Saying that they’re dumb and bad isn’t going to change their mind. God forbid if 8 chan shuts down and/or is forced to give up IPs of its users in the future, because people like Tarrant and Earnest will just find a much more hidden part of the web (TOR) where they vet their members and make sure they aren’t a snitch… Because they will plan to do worse… Much, much worse.

If you speak to them as people, and genuinely debate the merits of their argument, you will slowly change their minds so they’re no longer racist. If you speak to them like untermensch, then they will only further radicalize and may never be able to recover.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If you speak to them as people, and genuinely debate the merits of their argument, you will slowly change their minds so they’re no longer racist. If you speak to them like untermensch, then they will only further radicalize and may never be able to recover.

Have you had any success with "de-racisting" people?

I find that when you challenge their views you get an elastic band effect; they’ll tell you what you want to hear to get the heat off, then snap back to default five minutes later.

Since __ supremacy is predicated on the notion that the beliver is special due to being _____, and therefore this is a default, good luck with changing that mindset. They’d have to come up with a whole new way to "prove" their chops as superior anything. If their self-esteem is built on being better than __, it ain’t gonna happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I personally don’t know of anyone who I’ve de-radicalize, and I bet theres very few people who know if they’ve helped to de-radicalize. Its a slow process that takes a lot of time for an individual to change their opinion on things and it could take years. You have to constantly expose them to reasoned arguments that they would understand and point out inconsistencies in what they say.

You talk about an elastic band effect, but that could be happening for many reasons. It could be that they don’t want you to know how deep down the rabbit hole they actually are, or it could be that this person isn’t actually one of "those" people, but you just think he is. I know ive personally been called racist, sexist, and every name in the book, but the black people and brown people ive asked don’t think I’m a racist because they know me on a personal level. Im not a racist, yet im called one constantly on reddit.

I know this works. Theres been 3 different people ive heard of online, who were black, that befriended people in the KKK and got them to quit. Unfortunately I don’t hear about those kind of stories as much anymore because the political left has mostly stopped talking to the political right, so tribalism and further radicalization (on both sides) will just continue.

What ive always found interesting is that during the 1930s, it was easy to convince a communist to become a Nazi and vice versa, but it was hard to convince someone who opposed both to become either a nazi or a communist, or to convince a nazi/commie to believe in neither. Today, we have the media bashing the extreme right despite them being relatively small, while socialists are running rampant on the streets, in politics (in my country at least), and in the media. The modern social structure imo, looks very similar to the 1930s.

Roy Rogers says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I personally don’t know of anyone who I’ve de-radicalize, and I bet theres very few people who know if they’ve helped to de-radicalize. Its a slow process that takes a lot of time for an individual to change their opinion on things and it could take years. You have to constantly expose them to reasoned arguments that they would understand and point out inconsistencies in what they say."

Well said and I agree 100%

The Chosen Ones says:

Re: Re: Re:

There seems to be some intellectual dishonesy, or bias in your opinion, because Ive watched you tap dance around the issue of Chosen status for Anti Defamation League Jewish types, but never once heard you mention the ongoing obliteration of South American Amazonian tribes for exampl .

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t see the contradiction between those two actions/inactions. Saying nothing on one particular issue doesn’t make it intellectually dishonest or biased to “tap dance around” another, tangentially related issue or directly state any opinion on that other issue. Particularly in this case, where there’s a significant difference in where one problem is taking place, which makes ignorance a very plausible excuse.

Also, I don’t think you understand what it means to “tap dance around” an issue. Considering that it entails avoiding directly addressing the issue, I can’t see how that can conflict with failure to address another issue.

R,ogs/ says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

re: …I don’t see the contradiction…

Thats a lot more blahblahblah pubic hair splitting than I can handle right now, arguing with Assburgers types whose racial supremacist views and ethnic-tribalist egocentric arguments preclude intellectual honesty at any and every level, choosing instead to bicker, quibble, and tap dance around the not-significant difference between how Jews and their minions wage genocides, versus how those they other wage genocides.

No offense, but please stay in Israel, and avoid non-sociopaths, who desperately seek to avoid your types of “honest” people.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

First off, it’s Asperger’s. A condition which you appear to have no understanding of.

Second, I have never been to Israel, nor, to the best of my knowledge, am I descended from anyone from Israel (at least within the past several centuries).

At any rate, I was just saying that there’s nothing wrong with failing to address one topic just because you tap dance around another. Plus, has it ever occurred to you that not everyone knows about the obliteration of South American tribes? At least as a genocide.

R,og S/ says:

Creating the Nazi

Nearly every mass shooter/manufactured terrorist was in close contact with, or under surveillance by JTRIG /FBI /Fusion Centers /Israeli hasbara /ADL “Deplatformers ” and lashon hara specialists prior to the shooting incidents.

These hidden internet provocateurs are the lynch pin in these events, and manufactured terror.

And, without irony, a substantial body of evidence indicates that this is what Fusion Centers do too.

Then, most often, the DHS /FBI and local police webscrub the evidence of provocateurs by having Facebook et al delete the accounts.

https://theintercept.com/2017/12/30/facebook-says-it-is-deleting-accounts-at-the-direction-of-the-u-s-and-israeli-governments/

And, preceeding these events, we see these shooters, car crashers, and butter knife wielding manufactured terrorists complaining of being stalked, followed, and harassed by people who "coincidentally " are ideologically allied with ADL race rhetoric and cry bullying.

A short list of shooters who had direct, and persistent contact (sometimes for years, and even decades)with the FBI /ADL /local police and zionists: William Atchisson, Matt Riehl, Gavin Long, Cesar Sayoc, Omar Mateen, and Sayed Farook, the San Bernardino shooter.

In each case, the cowardly “anonymous tipsters"are curiously in constant contact with both police, AND the alleged shooters.

In the San Bernardino case, the cops claimed that "someone was working up” the name of the shooter”just one week before” the event. Guess who that anonymous tipster might have been?

CIA/DoD Radicalization, Incitement, and Provocatio says:

Re: Creating the Nazi

Nearly every mass shooter/manufactured terrorist was in close contact with, or under surveillance by JTRIG /FBI /Fusion Centers /Israeli hasbara /ADL ‘Deplatformers’ and lashon hara specialists prior to the shooting incidents.

You’re very close, but still incorrect.

Nearly every American mass shooter / manufactured terrorist was in close contact with, or under surveillance by, CIA / DoD Special Forces personnel prior to the mass shooting / terrorist incident.

Additionally, nearly every American mass shooter / manufactured terrorist is a "former" US military employee, and/or hails from a US military family, and/or has CIA agents in their immediate or extended families.

This biographical pattern can be observed extending all the way back to 1966 with the very first modern American mass shooter Charles Whitman, who was a U.S. Marine Corps enlistee.

R,ogs/ says:

Well, semantics aside, I am not incorrect, or factually in error, particularly as pertains to the most recent round of shooters, car crashers, etc., and I acknowledge, concur, and appreciate your addition to my statement.

But I think you are in error excluding the Mossadi jihadis who work at all levels of the US military and security industrial complex.

R,ogs/ says:

re : the thirteens, man

The first military /OSS era mass shooter was actually Howard Unruh, whose case got swept under the post-war rug, as the Protestant /Catholic OSS transitioned to the Zionazi CIA:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/story-first-mass-murder-us-history-180956927/

The potential sexual /homosexual blackmail scenario, and the, “coincidental 13” that appears in case after case of modern mass shooters cannot be missed either….

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