Fredrick Brennan, who founded but later distanced himself from the 8chan message board that has given encouragement and visibility to violent extremists, is facing arrest in the Philippines in a “cyberlibel” case brought by the site’s current owner.
An arrest warrant was issued Thursday in Pasig city, his lawyer, Alex Acain, told Rappler, a news site in the Philippines. Brennan is currently in the United States and it was unclear Thursday if he planned to return to the Philippines, where he lives.
The case stems from Twitter posts Brennan, who gave up control of 8chan in 2015, directed at Jim Watkins, who took over the site and also lives in the Philippines. Watkins, whose message board contains unapologetically racist material that has frequently cheered deadly violence, sued Brennan after tweets that referred to Watkins as “senile” and called the site’s moderators “incompetent.”
In the Philippines, cyberlibel is a criminal offense that can be punished with prison time.
In recent years, Brennan has repeatedly criticized the site and how it has been run. Several mass shooters, including those accused in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, shootings, had posted hate-filled screeds on the forum before their attacks and been cheered on by the site’s users.
Brennan originally created 8chan to host any legally permissible speech, no matter how toxic, but has since said the site should be shut down.
“I’ve tried to understand so many times why he keeps it going and I just don’t get it,” Brennan told The New York Times after the El Paso shooting in August. “After Christchurch, after the Tree of Life shooting, and now after this shooting, they think this is all really funny.”
The site was shut down in August after several tech companies refused to offer crucial services, but returned online in November under a new name, 8kun.
Watkins filed the libel complaint against Brennan in October.
“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,” Watkins said in the complaint, according to Rappler.
Brennan, who uses a wheelchair, has a condition known as brittle-bone disease. He told CNN Philippines in November that he thought the lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate him.
“I have a serious disability and there’s no doubt at all that I would certainly die in prison here,” he said.