A 23-Year-Old Coder Kept QAnon Online When No One Else Would
Thursday April 15, 2021. 05:30 AM , from Slashdot
Bloomberg's William Turton and Joshua Brustein have published a profile of the 23-year-old proprietor of VanwaTech, an internet provider in Vancouver, Wash. that 'provides tech support to the U.S. networks of White nationalists and conspiracy theorists banned by the likes of Amazon.' An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from the report: Two and a half months before extremists invaded the U.S. Capitol, the far-right wing of the internet suffered a brief collapse. All at once, in the final weeks of the country's presidential campaign, a handful of prominent sites catering to White supremacists and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy movement stopped functioning. To many of the forums' most devoted participants, the outage seemed to prove the American political struggle was approaching its apocalyptic endgame. 'Dems are making a concerted move across all platforms,' read one characteristic tweet. 'The burning of the land foreshadows a massive imperial strike back in the next few days.'
In fact, there'd been no conspiracy to take down the sites; they'd crashed because of a technical glitch with VanwaTech, a tiny company in Vancouver, Wash., that they rely on for various kinds of network infrastructure. They went back online with a simple server reset about an hour later, after the proprietor, 23-year-old Nick Lim, woke up from a nap at his mom's condo. Lim founded VanwaTech in late 2019. He hosts some websites directly and provides others with technical services including protection against certain cyberattacks; his annual revenue, he says, is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although small, the operation serves clients including the Daily Stormer, one of America's most notorious online destinations for overt neo-Nazis, and 8kun, the message board at the center of the QAnon movement, whose adherents were heavily involved in the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Lim exists in a singularly odd corner of the business world. He says he's not an extremist, just an entrepreneur with a maximalist view of free speech. 'There needs to be a me, right?' he says, while eating pho at a Vietnamese restaurant near his headquarters. 'Once you get to the point where you look at whether content is safe or unsafe, as soon as you do that, you've opened a can of worms.' At best, his apolitical framing comes across as naive; at worst, as preposterous gaslighting. In interviews with Bloomberg Businessweek early in 2020, Lim said he didn't really know what QAnon was and had no opinion about Donald Trump. What's undeniable is the niche Lim is filling. His blip of a company is providing essential tech support for the kinds of violence-prone hate groups and conspiracists that tend to get banned by mainstream providers such as Amazon Web Services.
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