Fredrick Brennan: There's no way I can stop this chan board under my sole control, or make it harder for criminals to congregate there.
Following the doxing and subsequent harassment of an unnamed Ars Technica reporter by 8ch.net users, the technology and news site granted a longwinded interview with 8ch.net admin Fredrick Brennan, age 20. According to Ars, Brennan had the dox of the Ars reporter removed by a moderator in exchange for nicer coverage by Machkovech and Ars
. Evidently, Brennan got what he wanted.
The interview was a three-page puff piece, intended to whitewash and legitimize Brennan's board as beyond his control and virtuous in its anonymity. The headline absolved Brennan of any responsibility for the platform, and the byline valorized it. The meat of the article was loaded with softball questions about Brennan's personal life intended to make him seem sympathetic. Machkovech gave Brennan a lot of room for excuse making, at times even acting like Brennan's spokesman. On multiple occasions Machkovech failed to challenge Hotwheels on outright falsehoods; about stories Machkovech had previously reported on for Ars. Machkovech didn't challenge Brennan on any of it, though he must have known Brennan was lying to him.
Ars Technica seems to be letting Brennan lead them around on a bridle, showing us only Hotwheels (his nickname, for the wheelchair he rides) as he would like to be depicted. All the tough questions Machkovech asked Brennan were left on the cutting room floor. In the past, Ars has also changed headlines for Hotwheels to reflect Brennan's ideas about 8chan's personhood. In this interview, Ars euphemistically referred to the child porn on 8chan as "illegal activity".
The real Hotwheels is less of a free speech idealist, and more of a virtual Al Capone, complete with a fanart-making personality cult. He's an Internet famous criminal whose business provides a space for white supremacists, pedophiles, #Gamergaters, and identity thieves. Brennan's moved his servers offshore, and his finances into Bitcoins, like you might expect a virtual mobster to do. He also has goons on a whistle; and they might get pissed if we don't speak well of him. Yet to Ars and Machkovech, doxing and harassment of unrelated people is just Brennan's cost of doing business; an unfortunate yet inevitable outcome. I am not the only one who finds this kind of reporting totally unacceptable.
Details about Fredrick Brennan I found in a dossier about him published January 23 follow below the fold, with the permission of the original author. Much of the dossier's content directly contradicts what Brennan and Machkovech discussed on Ars.
Fredrick Brennan: Wheelchair-bound Eugenicist
Although Brennan's repeatedly stated that 8chan's controversial content doesn't reflect his personal views, Brennan's activity on 8chan paints a different picture. For example, Brennan wrote a guest article he wrote for the Daily Stormer last December, and defending himself on Twitter for writing for a white supremacist news site.
In the guest article, Brennan advocated paying disabled people money to be sterilized; but he also went on at length about growing up with a severe disability and about his relationship with his dad; who was also the genetically healthy parent. Brennan probably wanted to appear sympathetic, like he did on Al-Jazeera, but instead he came off bitter and angry at his family:
"My mother has the same condition I do and gave birth to me via Caesarian section at the age of 38. She gave birth to my brother, who has the same condition, at the age of 40.
Fredrick Brennan: Child Porn Host, Alleged Lolicon Consumer
And the father? One Mr. David Brennan of Craryville, New York. A complete dead beat. A man so desperate for pussy he is currently fucking my former aide provided by the state, one Bibi Ougrah, despite the fact that she is post-menopausal, her hair is falling out and she is probably close to 300 pounds.
I don’t blame my parents for what happened, I instead blame the society that taught them that their actions were ethical.
My parents divorced when I was five, and in a case unusual for the court system in the feminist state of New York, due to my mother’s disability my father got sole custody. Thanks to state-sponsored welfare, he hardly had to do anything and got $1200 per month for the privilege of having crippled kids, plus a state sponsored nanny that he would later start sleeping with. He also cheated the IRS on top of this and did off the books mechanic work.
Upon seeing that his crippled children would never take out the garbage or even play a game of catch without breaking a bone, he promptly checked his children into the state foster care system when I was 14." - Fredrick Brennan, December 30 2014 for The Daily Stormer
Brennan has frequently claimed to be disgusted by child pornography, even though he hosts it on 8chan. Brennan claims that if he banned child porn from 8chan, he would no longer be competitive with other sites which allow similar content. He's even made comments implying 8chan is unfairly singled out for hosting child porn.
Brennan lied when he told Ars he doesn't moderate the child porn boards on 8chan. He does, instructing global moderators to delete the hardcore child pornography but keep the barely legal stuff. In fact, deleting hardcore child porn from the server used to be an explicit responsibility of 8chan global moderators, though Brennan's since edited his FAQ to say "illegal content" instead of mentioning child porn outright.
“All new global volunteers are sent a message congratulating them on becoming global volunteers and explaining the position. Global volunteers simply delete CP, excessive spam and other illegal content that comes on the server and ban the posting users and their IP ranges.” – 8chan.co FAQ, circa January 2015
In practice, 8chan moderates itself just enough to stay out of the focus of an overburdened system unequipped to deal with them. But this only sort of works, because the moderators seem to be pedophiles themselves. Quite often plainly illegal hardcore child porn
has been posted on 8chan and stayed up there for awhile
If someone notices a particular post and makes a fuss, Brennan may or may not delete it from his server. But there's no evidence he turns over the poster's IP to law enforcement or ever tried to report child porn being distributed on his site. All of Brennan's answers to Ars about co-operating with law enforcement were phrased as hypotheticals. Historically, the worst Brennan will do is delete the board, as happened to seven of the worst offenders following an expose by Dan Olson about child pornography on 8chan.
The understanding amongst people who actually use the child pornography boards on 8chan seems to be that Brennan's really on their side. In fact, according to one of the child porn boards on 8chan that's still open, Brennan's downloaded some anime child porn himself, specifically a "a German loli eroge":
"[Brennan] wants to look good to normal [people], but the dude freaking played Unalterbach, a German loli eroge. He still has our back though, so just ignore it if when he throws our asses under the bus." - Anonymous on 8ch.net, January 11, 2015
Fredrick Brennan: Doxer and Rogue Developer
Ars Technica implied that Brennan's name has made it into the news because of his association with the #Gamergate hashtag. This is not true. Brennan was mentioned in the Washington Post, BoingBoing and The Daily Dot for his hosting child pornography, harassers, and identity thieves on 8ch.net. Brennan has actively helped harassers on 8ch.net and occasionally joined in the doxing himself.
When Dan Olson published an expose about the child porn on 8chan, many people reported Brennan to Cloudflare (his distributed domain server system) and to internet.bs, 8chan's domain registrar. Cloudflare forwarded emails reporting the child porn on 8chan to Brennan directly, whereas internet.bs froze the 8chan domain for several days, citing "child abuse".
Brennan was furious to have his domain pulled;claiming it had been "stolen" from him by internet.bs. Brennan also posted the emails of people who reported to Cloudflare, publishing personal information which baphomet used as a hit list. Brennan released the information of people who reported child porn on his site to Cloudflare knowing baphomet would target them.
Brennan has also given tools to baphomet to help protect their identities and keep the board from being attacked by spam bots. (Original, NSFW context is available here.) Brennan also made it possible to post on 8chan via the Tor network, so that the IPs he logs would be fake ones. This was not possible until Brennan engineered it, and seems calculated to frustrate an attempt to carry out search warrants on Brennan's servers. Brennan's also dropped in to police Baphomet when their actions could get Brennan into legal trouble.
In private emails to my sources, Brennan has also said that he's engineering tools to make chan boards on the Deep Web faster and easier to use. Specifically, he said:
It is true that I am working on a new version of SRNd with a friend (https://github.com/...), but it is nowhere near production quality yet and there are no frontends (the first frontend will hopefully be https://github.com/...)."
Based Hotwheels, Based Reporter, Based Interview
-- Fredrick Brennan, in a 2/18/15 email to @Cernowatch
Sam Machkovech must have come to the interview with the expectation that he was writing a puff piece, because Brennan lied to him multiple times in ways that directly contradict Sam's previous reporting.
For example, when Brennan said he doesn't try to moderate the boards on 8chan, Sam Machkovech knew that Brennan had wiped Baphomet because of high-profile doxings and identity theft there. But instead of challenging Brennan when he lied to him, Machkovech sang Brennan's part for him, like a duet of techbro excuse making about the inevitability of online harassment and the importance of anonymous chan boards.
Wherever possible, Machkovech downplayed the criminal activity on 8chan with euphemism and apologia. He never called the child porn on 8chan what it is; instead he called it "illegal content". According to Machkovech, for Brennan to police this criminal activity on his platform would be taking a "moral stance".
Doxing is referred to in the passive voice by Machkovech; in the interview dox "pop up" on 8chan, when in reality they're posted there by a person with a grudge. Machkovech even spoke of the practice of doxing in admiring tones:
"The beauty you see in anonymity—that vanishes when someone is doxed. One user gets to say, “I’m choosing whose identity is going to be involved in this thread” without their consent. But everyone else in the thread gets to stay anonymous." -- Sam Machkovech for Ars Technica
My first contact with Sam Machkovech was in the form of a snotty @ reply on Twitter, demanding I change my headline for him the way Ars changes its headlines for Hotwheels. At the time I thought he was rude and incompetent, but now I wonder if Machkovech is shooting for "based", i.e. if he's one of those fetchdog journalists who tell the story #Gamergate's way, instead of presenting the facts.
But perhaps that's too harsh. When editing time rolled around, Machkovech and his editors left his tough questions on the cutting room floor; later posting a transcript of the whole conversation without comment. So perhaps it's Ars itself giving Hotwheels some quid pro quo, and not Machkovech pandering to #Gamergate.