Seattle, WA— [August 6, 2019] — Global Domain Name Registrar and Internet Technology Provider, Epik Inc., provided an update regarding its BitMitigate service as well as its decision to not provide site hosting services to the controversial message board service known as 8Chan.

Chronology of key events

On Sunday, August 4, 2019, Internet Service Provider, CloudFlare, announced that it was terminating its services to the popular alternative message board service, 8Chan, without opportunity for appeal. The following morning, on August 5, 2019, a principal of 8Chan contacted Epik, Inc. to request its consideration for a transfer-in of accounts and necessary technical services due to Epik’s previously declared stance on lawful free speech. Although 8Chan domains were transferred to Epik early that Monday, Epik remained reticent in the interim to provide a definitive statement regarding the prospect of providing content delivery services to 8Chan; namely, for Denial of Service protection or Content Delivery Network services through its operating division called BitMitigate. In the course of Monday, in response to 8Chan’s social media statement of its anticipated deployment of content delivery services with Epik, a critical network provider of so-called Border Gateway Protocol services elected to discontinue services for Epik with immediate effect. Although Epik’s core domain registrar services were not impacted, Epik’s BitMitigate service was rendered temporarily inoperable due to interruption of contracted upstream services.

BitMitigate services restored

Although the disruption of services by upstream providers did have the potential to be highly damaging to BitMitigate’s customers, Epik engineers worked diligently to restore services to its customers. The BitMitigate platform is designed to provide highly scalable and cost-effective solutions for Content Delivery and Denial of Service mitigation. The system has successfully defended against so-called Layer 7 attacks as well as attacks involving more than 1 million unique IP addresses in a single coordinated attack. The Content Delivery Service provides intelligent optimization for fast loading of web content, most notably on mobile devices. The BitMitigate service has been integrated into Epik’s flagship product called Resilient Domains.

Statement on Acceptable Use

Epik actively supports lawful content, community, and commerce. As a matter of policy, management seeks to provide customers with solutions without bias or favoritism vis-à-vis race, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. If a given content is legal, Epik endeavors to empower anyone to participate whether as producer or consumer. With the prevalence of user-generated content, including in fast-growing public forums, timely enforcement of Terms of Service can prove extremely difficult, notably in cases where a site has little in the way of revenue model with which to fund the services of professional moderators. In cases whereby Epik identifies a particular publisher as being under-equipped to properly enforce its own Terms of Service, Epik reserves the right to deny service.

Statement on decision to not provide BitMitigate service to 8Chan

Upon careful consideration of the recent operating history of 8Chan, and in the wake of tragic news in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend, Epik has elected to not provide content delivery services to 8Chan. This is largely due to the concern of inadequate enforcement and the elevated possibility of violent radicalization on the platform.

About Epik Holdings Inc:

Founded in 2009, Epik is a leading full-service, all-inclusive domain name registrar, as well as the leading provider of domain name leasing services and provider of transactions services for domain name and website assets. Domain industry regulator, ICANN, has accredited the privately-held provider of domain registrations since 2011. In 2019, Epik also acquired BitMitigate.com and high-availability hosting provider, Sibyl Systems LTD.

About Rob Monster:

Entrepreneur of the Year, TEDx alumnus, author, venture investor, and philanthropist, Rob Monster, is a global advocate for digital sovereignty and empowerment, believing in the tremendous untapped potential for the Internet to improve quality of life through digital solutions for content, community and commerce. Rob, a Dutch-American, has served as a trusted advisor on digital strategy to both the public and private sector around the world.

Safe Harbor Language: Any statements contained herein related to future events are forward-looking statements and are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act 1995.  Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Epik Holdings, Inc. undertakes no obligation to update any such statements to reflect actual events

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Anon says:

    It is sad to hear that you are no longer providing the BitMitigate service to 8chan. I was initially happy to hear that a free speech platform was taking in the site. In the current internet you have to go to great length in order to host a site with controversial, yet legal free speech. There seems to always be someone the angry mob can go complain to. If you look at the terms of use for BitMitigate you will see, “We leave law enforcement to the experts and will not stop service to any of our clients unless by final court order.” This seem like a perfect match. At least 8chan would not have to worry about its CDN taking it down as 8chan follows US law and enforces it with employees that moderate the site. Unfortunately, it seems like BitMitigate has decided to breach its terms of service and become the judge, jury, and executioner by deciding to no longer provide its service to 8chan.
    8chan is like a home to me and I primarily participate in discussion on the /tech/nology. It is sad that I am no longer able to talk to my friends on the platform because of this extended downtime due to companies constantly deplatforming others over this site. As of right now since the site is down I have turned to discussing on imageboards over Tor, as hidden services provide great censorship resistance. It should not be this hard to host a legal site on the internet without having to result to using software like Tor as it greatly hurts the amount of people who can find your site. The regular computer user is not able to figure out how to visit a hidden service. It’s an unrealistic expectation.
    Thank you for at least remaining to be the registrar for 8chan, it is just a shame that you are no longer providing your CDN service to them.

    • Rob Monster says:

      As you may be aware, BitMitigate burned through 2 long-standing upstream network providers on Monday as a consequence for allowing 8Chan to route traffic. We had not yet even made a formal decision as to whether we were going to accept them as a client, notably in light of CloudFlare’s high profile account termination on the heels of tragic events on the weekend. As hot potatoes go, 8chan was as hot as they come.

      And yes, this means that for the moment, the vast majority of the user base that are law-abiding good folks are going to be inconvenienced by being forced to learn about the decentralized Internet in order to access their preferred content, and that the resulting content will be harder to share. If it were up to us, it would not be this way and there would be an orderly path to compromise, similar to what was accomplished with Gab.com.

      • > BitMitigate burned through 2 long-standing upstream network providers

        That’s the entire point. Free speech only truly matters where the iron hits the fire. If you cant protect everyone, you can’t protect anyone.

        • Rob Monster says:

          We are certainly working on that aspect of the supply chain. In the meantime, I would say that our technical chops are pretty well validated. I don’t know too many other companies that can deliver benchmark solutions for domain, dns, hosting, ddos mitigation, content delivery, and VPN — all on a single vendor basis at a price point that anyone can afford. I think we are the only one.

  • Ryan Fox says:

    I don’t know much about 8Chan, but it is a shame that doing business with them caused issues.
    However, one thing that I know for sure is that the speed which BitMitgate’s downtime issues were resolved was impressive. Especially considering the situation, as well as the work required to reconfigure everything. Kudos to everybody involved, these people know what they’re doing.

    • Nick says:

      Why can’t we just let the legal system handle it. If someone breaks a law, charge them and arrest them. Make it so that there is no such thing as “Anonymous”. Have double verified accounts. Address, Driver’s license, Tax ID etc. Then if the idiot breaks the law, nail the prick. By doing what you are doing right now, you are promoting left wing lunacy. That will ultimately be to their detriment as they will get hurt once the right wing arrives at a consensus on dealing with them. You are doing nothing to stop this. It’s a train wreck about to happen!

  • Todd Tucker says:

    It’s unfortunate that Epik was pressured to the point of refusing to provide service to 8chan. Freedom of association is mandatory, so I do not disagree with this decision – however – it does seem like decentralized solutions will be the necessity for websites that are truly dedicated to the principles of absolute free speech.

  • Tim S. says:

    A true shame. You did your best, Rob. Though in the future perhaps these site owners should wait a week or two for things to cool off before they try to resurface. The lifespan of internet outrage mobs isnt very long.

    Theyre no more to blame for the shooter than facebook was, and im sure the lunatic’s manifesto was posted there as well.

    Excellent work restoring services so quickly! With this quality of service im sure youll grow enough to have your own hosting servers in no time at all.

    Its past time I moved my site off of godaddy anyways.

  • OldAnon says:

    I’m very disappointed to hear of your inability to provide CDN services to 8chan through BitMitigate thus far . Other posters have touched on some of the elements all ready so I’ll not reiterate too much, but it is disappointing that my – and many others – first introduction to BitMitigate and Epik is under these circumstances. With the tenets you list about providing services to sites so long as they are not outright illegal (should there be accusation, to arrive with court order through proper channels), seeing you stand your ground on this issue in the face of controversy would have inspired great confidence in your company and its services. Unfortunately, the current situation does the opposite and raises question among both current and potential Epik service users the length to which you truly commit to your stated ethos.

    I am curious about your statement regarding 8chan above, specifically the “This is largely due to the concern of inadequate enforcement and the elevated possibility of violent radicalization on the platform. ” Is this truly the reason to revoke access to BitMitigate, or is it more an element of untenable economic and social pressure? If the former, there are many that could make a very long argument in opposition and that the presence of such a statement seems to reinforce the attempt by some to characterize the site as extraordinary evil where rules and conventions must be bent in order to deal with it; a dangerous prospect when it comes to speech on the Internet.

    However, should the issue be the latter one of economic pressure, I urge you to speak of it more directly. In your reply to another poster above you mentioned that you lost 2 long-standing upstream providers (other sites report the site beginning with V was also involved in terms of hardware contracts. Not sure if this is what you were referring to here, or if it was in addition). While it would still be frustrating if you were not able to offer the service, if we were able to see it was not a value judgment on your part but simply that upstream or hardware partners you depended upon made it financially / technologically harmful to your business, it would be more understandable. I would also suggest naming those companies who stopped working with Epik for this reason, so that the public can make their displeasure known.

    While I find the actions of the events in El Paso abhorrent and find myself politically opposed to the most infamous ideology associated with 8chan, I do not feel that the entire site should be condemned for a violent nutcase posting his manifesto (a legal act in and of itself) upon one user-created sub-board among hundreds. All imageboards depend upon anonymous user content creation, with 8chan going a step further allowing individual board creation and moderation. There are many other sites that host the same subgroup (including sub-boards on major sites that allow user-created communities like Reddit and Facebook) of ideologies, not to mention other potentially “dangerous or radicalizing” content by one person’s definition or another. All that aside, I think this push for a virtual blackballing, “deplatforming” of those who host speech found offensive is a real problem. Especially given how much of our “public square” has transitioned online and has been usurped by a small number of private, corporate entities, we have an increasingly tenuous landscape where if you are deemed offensive you may lose access to a huge amount of online assets in this era. However, the attempt to go even further with sites like 8chan where there is a push to influence service providers to revoke their hosting, CDN, or domain registration is even more egregious and I feel that providers and hosts – especially those who espouse freedom of speech and willingness to host legal if controversial opinions – should push back!

    “Deplatforming” in this context I feel is universally harmful to open discourse on the Internet. For those concerned about radicalization, it will not cause radical ideologies to suffocate, but instead will exacerbate the problem as the ideology will appear vindicated when it claims victimization, able to point to concerted efforts in deplatforming to justify their narrative; winning wider acceptance and likely increasing radical viewpoints among existing adherents. Worse, it creates a situation where anything deemed objectionable or offensive is not simply to be discounted, debated against, or ignored, but to be removed. It will make things even more fractious as each group will wonder why X has been deemed suitable for deplatforming but Y is not, leading to accusations of bias, hypocrisy, and further leading to increasingly radical viewpoints.

    I believe the Internet is at its best as a bastion of free and open access to speech. Trying to simply undermine those with whom we disagree is ruinous to us all in the long term. It is important to remember that multiple times throughout its history the ACLU has supported the KKK. Though the two organizations and their members likely disagreed on nearly everything else, the ACLU knew that civil liberties must be preserved even (or perhaps especially) for offensive/unpopular speech. The issue of 8chan today is not one of the First Amendment as the government is not involved, but we should still keep that idea in mind that if we are committed to the free exchange of ideas, it must hold true even for those found repugnant. Attempting to blackball away registration, hosting, CDN services, or similar is in essence attempting to silence those voices entirely and should not be acceptable if we truly value what we claim to do so. Please consider this going forward and thank you.

  • sc says:

    You should have stayed the course and bought transit from a company without a twitter handle. The only reason Voxility and Choopa dropped you is because activists were posing loaded questions to them like “why are you platforming HATE?!?!?”

    The best way to deal with this is to colo in carrier-neutral dcs with IXP or MAN links, using a proxy ASN to sign the lease, and having a redundant blend of Tier 1/2 transit providers and as many peering relationships as you can negotiate. Trust me, I’ve been in this business since I was a teen and know what works.

    • Rob Monster says:

      I believe your assessment is entirely correct — this was Monday morning lynch mob social justice on steroids. The pressure was so heavy as to cause long-time vendors to breach contracts. The pain/gain ratio must have been mighty compelling to risk their brands as industry suppliers

      As for supply chain, we do have our own ASN and proprietary IP ranges. We do also have a growing network of suppliers which of course is why were able to restore service in a matter of hours after seeing both a primary and backup suppler get taken out.

      We are evaluating our options vis-a-vis supply chain resiliency. Our technology is rock solid, and the folks that would challenge the BitMitigate platform apparently know that as we have successfully mitigated attacks involving 1 million unique IPs as well as Layer 7 attacks.

      • WalkThePath says:

        So it’s “live to fight another day?”

        Those two companies were forced, this means a money/consequence/risk discussion happened at their Board level to breach your contracts. They were either backstopped by financial or decided to do it on Good Will (someone on the Board is controlled).

        There’s money there, and you have GOT to make them pay — you have a legitimate and clear-cut case of breach of contract, you must stand up to unlawful, unilateral, punitive behaviour, or you are condoning it.

        Two companies caused your company commercial damages and reputation damages, your shareholders are entitled to demand from you how you are going to recoup those losses through appropriate lawful methods.

        The Law is the Law. A contract is binding, it is the written promise of the parties and it’s what holds our very civilization together. We are all answerable to at the very minimum our own conscious. Live worthily. Be the Torchbearer: Light the Path. Walk the Path with righteousness. We will support you.

        • Rob Monster says:

          Thanks.

          We are on the lookout for a suitable contingency lawyer to take this case. Jurisdiction for Voxility is Virginia. We did give them a deadline of 1700 PST on Wednesday to propose a reasonable settlement for breach. They were not forthcoming, so indeed, rational heads did not prevail there.

  • DM says:

    The shooter’s manifesto was posted on instagram first. Was instagram taken down? The Christchurch shooter live streamed to Facebook. Was that taken down? DDOS protection infrastructure is a racket. Countries that cannot stop and effectively prosecute DDOS offenders should not be connected to the internet until they do. DDOS is the crime here, not free speech platforms.

    • Roger Jackson says:

      If they breached contracts, file suit. Make an example out of them. I am CERTAIN that the larger Internet community will GLADLY assist in financing such an endeavor.

  • Nate says:

    Censorship of a message board that was in full compliance with all laws was a very sad day in America. Ostensibly we Americans believe in free speech, but apparently that’s only until it’s just a little unpopular or inconvenient.

    Humanity has learned nothing through the ages – except perhaps that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It has been 386 years since Galileo Galilei was censored and persecuted by the rulers of his time, a tyrannical church obsessed with power, for daring to propose his heliocentric model of the solar system that would destroy their dogma with truth. Today we have the silicon valley emperors, obsessed with power and replete with their own self-serving dogma – propagated by the mostly fake news sycophant media – persecuting and censoring Jim Watkins, his message board 8chan and over 1 million users who did nothing wrong. That’s a lot of people. Know that we will stand up and be counted.

    If this day demonstrated anything, it demonstrated the need for a decentralized Internet platform to dethrone the silicon valley emperors who act as though it’s fine to impose their world view on others while hiding their motives behind carefully crafted PR firm phrases like “it was a business decision”, hoping that the reader will be conned into accepting that somehow excuses Un-American, immoral, behavior. It doesn’t. Yes, it was probably legal to de-platform 8chan and they had the “right” to do so, but that alone does not make it moral or consistent with American values. How ironic to justify censorship based on the immorality of murdering innocent people while obviously having none of your own. The silicon valley emperors have demonstrated that they won’t put American values over profits or do the right thing when it’s most needed.

    As it was in 1776, a declaration of independence is in order. Coders, anons and network engineers must rise to the occasion with our own “business decision” – except this will be a moral decision, consistent with American values – to dethrone the silicon valley oligarchy with a decentralized messaging platform that is highly censorship resistant so that we can be free to express our thoughts and ideas as we see fit. That’s my battle cry anons. Let’s do it.

  • billy says:

    Must go for breach of contract. Give any extra settlement, or award to the site that you took down. Announce it to the world and save your reputation.

  • Jackson says:

    Rob,

    I understand what it’s like to be between a rock and a hard place, and you’re behind Plymouth Rock and a very hard place! I see both sides. Obviously, with me not being IN your position, I see the free speech side much more, but I do understand commercial stuff and this must have been very hard to deal with. You always explain yourself eloquently and rationally.

    As someone who is considering moving their free speech website to Epik hosting, I am waiting to hear if you manage to get legal support before I make the switch. I suspect many others are doing the same as me. Does the Electronic Frontier Foundation not offer you any help? I know they helped Dreamhost when they had radical social justice warriors baying for bloody. One of my concerns is whether Epik has the financial might (and desire) to fight off censorship. For instance if you were subjected to a court order like Dreamhost was, demanding not just account owner details, but details of ALL of their site visitors too, would you be able to stand as strong as Dreamhost did? I hope so, but I would need to feel quite sure of that before moving.

    Short version – Epik v Dreamhost – that is the question! Feel free to blow your trumpet, I would like to hear it!

    Thanks again and, God willing, you will be offering free speech services for a long time to come.

    • Rob Monster says:

      The greatest challenge is actually to discern hate speech, i.e. separating (1) content that offends some people but is lawful, from (2) content that is being produced by a publisher who is willfully hateful. It is relatively easy to provide safe harbor to (1) but increasingly hard to justify (2).

      A secondary challenge is dealing with sites whose core function is to aggregate user generated content (UGC) but where there is a limited amount of moderating available to root out content that is willfully hateful of unlawful. UGC can be wonderful, but it does have to be supervised to a degree.

      While Epik continues to support and empower lawful free speech, genuine hatemongers will find themselves increasingly unwelcome. Incidentally, genuine hatemongers tend to be terrible clients so there is rarely a business incentive for empowering them.

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