Fredrick Brennan

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Fredrick Brennan
Fredrick Brennan, holding a piece of paper with the handwritten text: "9/5/2019 08:00 UTC+8 Hispachan ñ ¡Pregúntame lo que quieras!"
Brennan in 2019, for identity verification on Hispachan
Born (1994-02-21) February 21, 1994 (age 27)[1]
NationalityAmerican
Other names"Copypaste"[2]
OccupationSoftware developer, type designer
Known forFounder of 8chan

Fredrick Brennan (born February 21, 1994) is an American software developer and type designer who founded the imageboard website 8chan in 2013, before going on to repudiate it in 2019. Following 8chan's surge in popularity in 2014, largely due to many Gamergate proponents migrating to the site from 4chan, Brennan moved to the Philippines to work for Jim Watkins, who provided hosting services to 8chan and later became the site's owner.

Brennan cut ties with 8chan in 2016 and with Watkins in 2018. Brennan has since become an outspoken critic of both 8chan and Watkins, and has actively battled to try to take 8chan offline. Brennan is also an outspoken critic of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which centers on 8chan posts by an anonymous figure named "Q", and Brennan has researched who may be behind the Q identity.

Personal life[edit]

Brennan was born in February 1994 in Albany, New York.[3][4] He was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly known as brittle bone disease, which stunted his growth and requires him to use a wheelchair. He estimates he had broken bones 120 times in his first 19 years.[5] Brennan comes from a multi-generational family with osteogenesis imperfecta, and his mother has the same condition.[6] His parents divorced when Brennan was five years old. He and his siblings were in his father's custody until Brennan was 14, when they were placed into the New York State foster care system, where Brennan remained until he was 16 while his mother went through the legal proceedings to regain custody. He then lived with his mother until he was 18. He graduated high school, and chose not to attend college.[2]

In January 2014, Brennan was robbed of almost $5,000 that he was saving up for a new wheelchair. When the suspect was arrested, Brennan went to the police station for a lineup, but when a bus did not come on the way back he was left stranded in the snow, and later had to be treated for hypothermia.[5] He received a personal apology from New York City Police Commissioner, William J. Bratton.[7] RazorClicks began a donation campaign to help gather the remaining funds for a new wheelchair; $15,000 USD was raised in two months.[8]

Brennan wrote an article in 2014 supporting the voluntary sterilization of people with similar severe inheritable genetic conditions. In the article, Brennan states that only The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi website, would agree to publish it.[6][9] Brennan developed a hatred of his parents for his life of constant pain, stating in an interview for Tortoise Media in 2019, "I don't want to speak for everybody with a disability, but I hate being disabled and I always have".[6]

Brennan later became a Christian and ceased to believe in encouraging sterilization. In 2019, he considered having a child with his wife, but maintained he still believes in genetic testing for prospective parents.[6]

Brennan in the early 2010s identified himself as a libertarian, however he became increasingly critical of the ideology, arguing that the libertarian approach to 8chan resulted in the creation of a system of feudalism.[10] In 2016, he supported Bernie Sanders for president.[10]

Early computer use and independence[edit]

Brennan's disability restricted his play activities during his childhood, so he became "hooked" on his first computer at the age of six. Brennan taught himself to code, and wrote his first independent computer program at the age of 13.[11][2] Brennan was active in Internet culture from an early age, and was a regular 4chan user since 2006, when he was 12 years old.[6][2]

Brennan began doing freelance work immediately after graduating from high school. He started by doing tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk, making $5,000 in 2012 through the platform.[2] He later became a "requester" (employer) for the service, which earned him enough money to move from his mother's home in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Brooklyn, New York.[5][2] There, he worked building websites as head of programming for RazorClicks, which does small business web marketing.[5] The company paid the rent for his apartment and he worked a second job, remotely, for a Canadian company to pay for expenses.[11]

In 2012, he joined Wizardchan, an Internet community for male virgins.[12] According to Brennan, he bought Wizardchan from the original administrator in March 2013 and owned it until September 2013, when he resigned after losing his virginity.[2][13]

8chan[edit]

In October 2013, Brennan launched 8chan, also called "Infinitechan" or "Infinitychan", after a month of raising pledges on Patreon. It started with a small but loyal following.[14] Brennan initially ran the site anonymously, known only as "copypaste", the username he used in IRC chatrooms. In May 2014, he was doxxed, and he decided to start putting his real name behind his work on 8chan.[2]

After 4chan's founder and then-site admin, Christopher "moot" Poole, banned discussion related to Gamergate in September 2014, Brennan began advertising 8chan as a "free speech friendly 4chan alternative" where discussion boards would be managed by the users who created them, not by site moderators.[3][15][16] In 2021, Brennan told an interviewer for Jacobin that he initially limited 8chan's rules to a prohibition on illegal activity out of laziness rather than ideological conviction.[10] Brennan himself became a prominent Gamergate voice; he went on to be interviewed about 8chan users' involvement in harassment of Brianna Wu on The David Pakman Show, and asked to debate about Gamergate on HuffPost Live and Al Jazeera America.[17][18][19] As a result of the influx of Gamergate proponents, the site took off—Brennan said in an interview with Ars Technica that the site experienced over 4,000 posts an hour that month, a major increase from around 100 posts per hour prior to the 4chan rule change.[2] 8chan became the second most popular English-language imageboard on the web.[14]

Brennan found it increasingly difficult to keep up with the server costs of the growing site, and the site experienced frequent downtime as multiple internet service providers denied service due to the site's objectionable content.[2][20] Brennan was criticized for 8chan's pedophilia-related boards; Brennan said to The Daily Dot in 2014 that he personally finds such content reprehensible, but stood by his refusal to remove content that did not violate United States law.[15] Due to the controversy surrounding the site, the crowdfunding site Patreon removed 8chan's fundraising page in January 2015, and the site registrar put the original domain 8chan.co on hold, each citing the presence of child abuse content.[14][21][22] The registrar later relinquished control of the domain back to 8chan.[23]

Jim Watkins, the owner of a web hosting company called N.T. Technology, contacted Brennan shortly after the site's surge in popularity to offer a partnership, under the condition that Brennan come to the Philippines to work for him.[24] Brennan trusted Watkins because he knew he operated the 2channel imageboard, though at the time he was unaware of the claim that Watkins had stolen the site from its founder.[25] Brennan agreed to work for Watkins, and in late 2014 he moved to Manila to join him.[16][20] Watkins, via N.T. Technology, began offering domain name services and hardware to host 8chan in 2014 into 2015, and Brennan continued to be responsible for the site's software development and community management.[4][20]

In 2014, Watkins became the official owner and operator of 8chan. Brennan remained the site administrator until 2016, at which time he relinquished the role.[4][25][26]

Post-8chan[edit]

In 2016, Brennan resigned his role as 8chan's site administrator. Wired magazine reported he left the position due to stress; others have attributed his departure to Brennan's growing disgust with the site and its contents. Brennan continued to work for Watkins, but stopped working on and posting at 8chan, continuing instead to work on the 2channel project.[4][25][27] Jim Watkins' son, Ron Watkins, took up the site administrator role following Brennan's resignation.[4] In December 2018, Brennan stopped working for Watkins and cut ties with the Watkins family, alleging that Jim Watkins had shown up at his home and berated him for asking to take time off.[4][28][29]

Brennan has since become an outspoken critic of 8chan and of Watkins, and has actively battled to try to take the site offline.[20][27][30] Following the March 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings, in which the shooter posted his manifesto and links to a livestream of the attack to 8chan, Brennan told The Wall Street Journal that he no longer wants to be involved in the imageboard world again, saying that "a lot of these sites cause more misery than anything else".[31] Following the August 2019 El Paso shooting, in which the suspect allegedly posted a manifesto to 8chan before carrying out the attack, Brennan called for the site to be taken offline in an interview with The New York Times, saying: "It's not doing the world any good. It's a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It's a negative to them, too. They just don't realize it."[32] In an August 2019 appearance on the QAnon Anonymous podcast, Brennan said, "If they wanna bring 8chan back online, just be aware, I will do everything I can to keep it down because the world is better off without it."[33]

After Watkins refused to take down 8chan in 2019, Brennan directed a number of tweets at him and the message board, calling Watkins "senile" and the site moderators "incompetent". Watkins responded by filing a lawsuit against Brennan, alleging Brennan had violated the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, which makes "cyberlibel" a criminal offense that can be punished with prison time.[34][35] Brennan has said that Watkins filed the suit to try to intimidate and punish him.

On February 26, 2020, a Philippines court issued an arrest warrant for Brennan based on the complaint. Brennan has said that because of his medical condition and the notoriously poor conditions in the Bureau of Immigration Bicutan Detention Center, arrest by the Philippine authorities would likely result in his death.[25][30] Brennan fled the Philippines hours before the warrant was issued, taking a different flight to avoid authorities who were looking for him at the airport.[25] He has been fighting the warrant from the United States.[36]

In March 2020, the court suspended the case pending the outcome of an appeal by Brennan to the Philippines Department of Justice.[30][37] Brennan initially took up residence in Van Nuys, California, in exile from the Philippines,[25] before moving back to the East Coast, in late November, 2020.[38][39]

Opposition to QAnon[edit]

Brennan has also become a prominent opponent of QAnon,[30][40] a far-right conspiracy theory. Brennan is a central figure in researching the identity of "Q",[41] the anonymous figure behind imageboard posts that originated the conspiracy theory, who claims to be a high level government official with Q clearance and who purports to have access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States.[42] Q began posting on the 4chan imageboard in October 2017, but later moved to 8chan.[43] Brennan believes that Jim Watkins has controlled the Q account since late 2017 or early 2018, which is when Brennan believes Watkins used his access as the owner and operator of 8chan to seize the account from its original operator.[25][41] Numerous journalists and conspiracy theory researchers have agreed with Brennan's assertion that Watkins is working with Q, knows Q's identity, or that Watkins himself controls the Q account.[24][44][45][46][47] In October 2020, Brennan's research revealed that QMap, a popular website disseminating Q posts, was owned by Jim Watkins.[47][48] The website was shut down shortly after.[48]

Font design[edit]

Post-8chan, Brennan has developed several open-source computer fonts. Brennan's TT2020 font is a typewriter-style font with many variations on individual glyphs, which attempts to more realistically emulate the inconsistencies in characters that would be produced by a typewriter.[49] Brennan's Chomsky font is a blackletter typeface based on the New York Times logo (which is handmade, not set from a typeface), with adjustments to make it more suitable for running text rather than mastheads alone.[50] Brennan was also commissioned by Google to create a Baybayin font.[51]

Brennan was a co-maintainer of the free and open-source software FontForge for a year and a half, starting shortly after he stopped working with Watkins.[51] During that time he decided to create his own open-source font editing software, which he calls MFEQ, an acronym for "Modular Font Editor Q".[51][52] In an October 2020 interview for Know Your Meme, Brennan said he was motivated to create a new, user-friendly open-source font editor to "break font editing out of the hands of proprietary software", saying that Apple has outsized control of the font editing software market.[51]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fredrick Brennan [@fr_brennan] (February 21, 2021). "I'm 27!..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Brennan, Fredrick (March 17, 2015). "Full transcript: Ars interviews 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan". Ars Technica (Interview). Interviewed by Sam Machkovech. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Machkovech, Sam (March 20, 2015). "'I don't even pretend I can stop it': 8chan's founder talks doxing, Internet freedom". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f McLaughlin, Timothy (August 6, 2019). "The Weird, Dark History of 8Chan". Wired. Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Wilson, Michael (January 17, 2014). "City Newcomer Is Let Down by a Stranger, Then the Police". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e Woolf, Nicky (June 29, 2019). "Destroyer of worlds". Tortoise Media. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  7. ^ "NY police apologize to victim with food, favors". Police1. Lexipol. March 22, 2014. Archived from the original on November 5, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  8. ^ Wilson, Michael (March 21, 2014). "After Leaving Victim in the Cold, the Police Work to Make It Right". New York Times. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  9. ^ Herzog, Chrizella (March 8, 2015). "When the Internet Breeds Hate". The Diplomatic Courier. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "Fredrick Brennan Is the Founder of 8chan. Now He Wants to Take It Offline". jacobinmag.com. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  11. ^ a b The America Tonight Digital Team (September 12, 2014). "A day in the life of a man with brittle bone disease". America Tonight. Al Jazeera America. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014. Video online at YouTube: "The Other America 'Fredrick Brennan' - YouTube". Al Jazeera America. September 20, 2014. Archived from the original on October 26, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  12. ^ Audureau, William (October 15, 2014). "4chan, wizardchan, 8chan... s'y retrouver dans la jungle des forums anonymes les plus populaires du Web" [4chan, Wizardchan, 8chan... navigate the jungle of the most popular anonymous forums on the web]. Le Monde (in French). Archived from the original on September 27, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  13. ^ Caldwell, Don (October 9, 2014). "Q&A with Fredrick Brennan of 8chan". Know Your Meme. Archived from the original on August 16, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c Dewey, Caitlin (January 13, 2015). "This is what happens when you create an online community without any rules - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 19, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  15. ^ a b O'Neill, Patrick Howell (November 17, 2014). "8chan, the central hive of Gamergate, is also an active pedophile network". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on January 5, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Chiel, Ethan (April 19, 2016). "Meet the man keeping 8chan, the world's most vile website, alive". Splinter. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  17. ^ "What Is #Gamergate? 8chan Administrator And Female Gamer Join HuffPost Live". HuffPost Live. The Huffington Post. October 15, 2014. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  18. ^ Pakman, David (November 5, 2014). "#GamerGate: 8Chan Admin 'Hotwheels' Denounces Brianna Wu Doxxing & Harassment". The David Pakman Show. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  19. ^ The America Tonight Digital Team (December 10, 2014). "GamerGate debate: Video games, free speech and misogyny". Al Jazeera America. Archived from the original on December 13, 2014. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
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  21. ^ Machkovech, Sam (January 8, 2015). "8chan, related sites go down in Lizard Squad-powered DDoS". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on January 17, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  22. ^ Machkovech, Sam (January 12, 2015). "8chan domain seized over allegations of child abuse content". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on January 16, 2015. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  23. ^ 8chan (8ch.net) [@infinitechan] (January 13, 2015). "Our .co domain was released and transferred and is back under 8chan control. It will remain as a redirect. Thread: t.co/0nuVdMe7fL" (Tweet). Archived from the original on November 4, 2017. Retrieved December 2, 2019 – via Twitter.
  24. ^ a b Farley, Donovan (Spring 2020). "Free Speech, Hate Speech and the King of the Trolls". Playboy. Archived from the original on June 19, 2020. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Vogt, PJ (September 18, 2020). "Country of Liars". Reply All (Podcast). Gimlet Media. Event occurs at 7:15. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  26. ^ Ling, Justin (October 6, 2020). "QAnon's Creator Made the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on October 6, 2020. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
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  28. ^ Begley, Patrick (March 22, 2019). "Racist meme subcultures under fresh scrutiny after the Christchurch terror attack". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on March 23, 2019. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  29. ^ Reeve, Elle (September 5, 2019). "How 8chan Was Born — and Became the Worst Place on the Internet". Vice News. Archived from the original on November 2, 2019. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
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  31. ^ McMillan, Robert (March 20, 2019). "After New Zealand Shooting, Founder of 8chan Expresses Regrets". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on August 31, 2019. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  32. ^ Roose, Kevin (August 4, 2019). "8chan Is a Megaphone for Gunmen. 'Shut the Site Down,' Says Its Creator". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 5, 2019. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  33. ^ Collins, Ben (September 4, 2019). "8chan founder: Current owner will 'lie' during congressional testimony". NBC News. Archived from the original on June 11, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  34. ^ Victor, Daniel (February 27, 2020). "Founder of 8chan Faces Arrest on 'Cyberlibel' Charge". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  35. ^ Gregorio, Xave (November 11, 2019). "Owner of site linked to US mass shooting sues founder for cyber libel in PH". CNN Philippines. Archived from the original on April 4, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  36. ^ Levinson, Charles (March 3, 2020). "With super PAC, QAnon's con chases mainstream — and money". Protocol. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  37. ^ "Pasig City court suspends proceedings on cyber libel charge vs founder of site linked to mass shooting". CNN Philippines. March 6, 2020. Archived from the original on March 6, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  38. ^ Brennan, Fredrick. "This flight is ridiculously full so everyone knows. The airport was too. I'm not traveling for Thanksgiving, I'm moving permanently to Eastern US where I grew up and where I know how to navigate. It's LAX–⟩EWR and is as full as pre-pandemic. I'm seated all the way in the back". Twitter. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  39. ^ Brennan, Fredrick. "I missed the East coast so much you guys have no idea If I never see California again that will be just fine by me. After the pandemic I want to see all the cities I never got to or only saw in passing. Philadelphia, Boston, DC (especially, please invite be some Democrat)". Twitter. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  40. ^ Robertson, Adi (February 27, 2020). "8chan's founder is facing arrest for 'cyberlibel' in the Philippines". The Verge. Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  41. ^ a b Mak, Aaron (September 25, 2020). "Was the Identity of Q Really Just Revealed? Here's Everything We Know". Slate. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  42. ^ Griffin, Andrew (August 24, 2020). "What is Qanon? The Origins of the Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Spreading Online". The Independent. Archived from the original on October 4, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  43. ^ Zadrozny, Brandy; Collins, Ben (August 14, 2018). "Who is behind the Qanon conspiracy? We've traced it to three people". NBC News. Archived from the original on December 9, 2019. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  44. ^ Gilbert, David (March 2, 2020). "QAnon Now Has Its Very Own Super PAC". Vice. Archived from the original on August 15, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  45. ^ Rothschild, Mike (August 28, 2020). "Did an IP address accidentally reveal QAnon's identity?". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  46. ^ LaFrance, Adrienne (June 2020). "The Prophecies of Q". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  47. ^ a b Francescani, Chris (September 22, 2020). "The men behind QAnon". ABC News. Archived from the original on September 22, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  48. ^ a b Greenspan, Rachel E. (October 7, 2020). "Who is Q? A popular theory says QAnon's ringleader is the owner of a forum that hosted mass shooters. Experts doubt the revelation would change the movement". Insider. Archived from the original on November 10, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  49. ^ Beschizza, Rob (January 3, 2020). "TT2020: an old-timey typewriter typeface that doesn't look fake". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on May 27, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  50. ^ Beschizza, Rob (December 19, 2019). "Chomsky: a blackletter typeface inspired by The New York Times' nameplate". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  51. ^ a b c d Brennan, Fredrick (October 7, 2020). "Fredrick Brennan, Creator Of 8chan, Shares The Chaotic Origins Of The Infamous Imageboard, How He Got Caught Up In The QAnon Conspiracy Theory, And Who He Thinks Is Behind It". Know Your Meme (Interview). Interviewed by Zach. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  52. ^ Brennan, Fredrick (September 1, 2020). "mfeq README". Archived from the original on November 10, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020 – via GitHub.

External links[edit]