8Chan founder says current site owner Jim Watkins behind QAnon – report

Kyle Chua

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8Chan founder says current site owner Jim Watkins behind QAnon – report

MOON TOWNSHIP, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: A woman holds up a QAnon sign to the media as attendees wait for President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation on September 22, 2020 in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. Trump won Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point in 2016 and is currently in a tight race with Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP


ABC News also reports Watkins had been living in the Philippines until leaving for the US on September 4, 2020

With the US presidential election on the horizon, the QAnon movement is seemingly once again picking up steam, prompting some social media companies to take action against anything related to the far-right conspiracy theory. 

The likes of Twitter and Facebook have recently been cracking down on high-profile QAnon accounts in an effort to stop the movement’s baseless ideas from spreading on their respective platforms.

What is QAnon?

The idea of QAnon is built around a conspiracy theory that claims that there is a cabal of liberal elites from the government, Hollywood, and the media, among other sectors, who worship Satan, run an international sex-trafficking ring, and eat children for eternal youth. 

On the other side of the ring is Donald Trump, who the theory claims will battle these elites and usher in what’s been referred to as “The Storm” resulting in the mass arrest of journalists, politicians, and other enemies of the movement. 

QAnon’s supporters have since expanded upon these basic ideas, spilling over to other rightwing agendas, such as the anti-vaccine movement, for example. 

Possible PH connection?

QAnon began when an anonymous user named “Q Clearance Patriot”, believed to be a military intelligence official, started posting messages on the forums site 4chan in late 2017.

The user would later do the same on 8chan – now rebranded as 8kun – a different message board site that’s notorious for posts related to extremism, hate speech, and other sensitive topics, and tied to the Christchurch and El Paso shootings in 2019.

These posts – or “Q drops” – are then interpreted by “Q influencers”, who interpret, archive, and disseminate the information to a wider, more mainstream audience on aggregator sites and later on popular social media platforms. 

No one knows yet who “Q” exactly is and where he or she is operating from. Some speculations and reports believe that the posts are being authored by a group of people rather than an individual. 

Estranged 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan, however, suggests that the mysterious user could be or at least has some connection to his former business partner, Jim Watkins, who supposedly resided in the Philippines in the past and is the operator of the site. 

“If he’s not ‘Q’ himself, he can find out who ‘Q’ is at any time,” Brennan told ABC News

“And he’s pretty much the only person in the world that can have private contact with ‘Q.’ He’s the only person that – through the board that ‘Q’ started on 8chan – can send ‘Q’ a direct message and get into private contact with basically the leader of this political cult that everybody wants to hear from right now.”

Brennan created 8chan when he was living in New York in 2013. Just a year later, he moved to Manila to work with Jim Watkins. In 2015, he gave Watkins ownership of the controversial site, but continued to work with him until 2018. (READ: Rappler Talk: 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan on what has become of the internet)

Brennan, in multiple interviews, has denounced the site and other image board sites over the content published on there.

The two’s relationship broke down further when Watkins in late February filed a cyberlibel complaint against Brennan for calling him “senile” and “incompetent” in a Tweet. (READ: 8chan owner sues founder for cyber libel in the Philippines)

Brennan, who moved back to the US, has yet to face the indictment. 

Brennan, as detailed in the ABC report, offered digital forensics that supposedly tie 8chan/8kun to a QAnon site, and another neo-Nazi site. Overall, it is still inconclusive.

Watkins’ whereabouts

The ABC report attempted to track where Jim Watkins is now, who has denied any direct association with “Q” and maintains that he’s never had any contact with the user. 

Brennan thinks this is all a ploy, claiming that Watkins is profiting from the connections to “Q” by selling merchandise and cross-promoting QAnon influencers, who sell books and videos. 

Watkins moved to Manila from the US in 2001 and has been living in the country since then, according to immigration records obtained by ABC News. However, he left the country for the US on September 4, 2020 following the Philippine Bureau of Immigration’s move to deem him an undesirable alien. His current whereabouts are unknown. 

Watkins “is the owner and operator of 8chan, a hate-filled forum/website which hosts trolling and serves as a go-to resource for violent extremists and white supremacists,” states the bureau’s charging sheet. 

Brennan explained to ABC News that he might have had a hand in Watkins’ investigation. 

After being sued by Watkins earlier this year, Brennan said that he hired a local attorney to accompany his wife to complain about Watkins in front of commissioners from the immigration bureau. 

They argued that Watkins’ 8chan operations in the country should compel the bureau to determine him as an undesirable alien. 

“We were basically playing his own game back at him, because he chased me out of the country first,” said Brennan.

Watkins’ supposed brother-in-law, who ABC News met with in his Pasig City home, said  that Watkins had sold the pig farm he was living in, and had since moved back to the US. 

Watkins is expected to return and appeal the designation, but it’s not clear yet when he plans to do it. 

Immigration records state that he must return by January 31, or else he’ll be placed on a blacklist and barred from re-entering the country. 

“I would be shocked if he really ever returns now that this immigration case is going,” said Brennan.

“If you’re a foreigner there you really have to prove you’re not undesirable,” he added. “The bureau of immigration can deport anyone for any reason or no reason and the only person who can overturn it is Duterte.” – Rappler.com

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