8chan owner sues founder for cyber libel in the Philippines

Rambo Talabong

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8chan owner sues founder for cyber libel in the Philippines
8chan owner Jim Watkins accuses 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan of cyberlibel in the Philippines, where defamation is a criminal offense

MANILA, Philippines – 8chan owner Jim Watkins has filed a cyber libel complaint against its estranged founder Fredrick Brennan, Rappler learned.

According to a complaint submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor of Pasig City submitted on October 30 and obtained by Rappler on Monday, November 11, Watkins accused Brennan of libel for tweeting that he is “going senile” on September 6 when he appeared before the United States Congress to testify about 8chan.

8chan is is an online message board site popular among right-wing extremists, misogynists, and conspiracy theorists. This is far from Brennan’s initial vision for a website for free speech when he founded it in 2013. He left the website in 2016 and completely cut ties with it in 2018.

Screenshot from Brennan's Twitter account

According to Watkins, Brennan’s comments were not harmless online rants, but messages that damage his reputation with the aim of bringing down him and 8chan. The site has been struggling to stay online after server providers refused to host it for its controversial content.

Despite being an advocate for what he called “constitutionally protected hate speech” in the United States, Watkins stressed in his complaint in the Philippines that free speech had its limits.

“The exercise of the right of free expression and free speech like any other right enshrined in our Constitution comes with an equal burden of responsible exercise of that right. after all, the recognition of a right is not a free license for the one claiming it to run roughshod over the rights of others,” he said.

Both Watkins and Brennan are Americans living in the Philippines. Unlike in the United States, libel in the Philippines is a criminal offense and could land anyone convicted of it in jail. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.