Jim Watkins is an American businessperson and the owner and operator of the controversial imageboard 8chan. Watkins is the owner of NT Technologies, which maintained the servers for 2chan, an imageboard he was later accused of stealing. He also became the subject of scrutiny for refusing to shut down his 8chan imageboard following the Christchurch Mosque Shooting, videos of which appeared on 8chan as did the shooter’s manifesto. In 2020, some researchers announced that they believed him to be or be in contact with the mysterious Q, who is responsible for the Qanon conspiracy theory.
N.T. Technology and 2chan
Following a 17 year stint in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army reserves, Watkins founded the Japanese adult website “Asian Bikini Bar,” which he later called “one of the largest video streaming adult websites in the world.” By hosting content in the U.S., Watkins circumvented Japanese censorship laws. He later renamed the company N.T. Technology, the acronym means nothing, says Watkins.
N.T. Technology would later host 2chan, the Hiroyuki Nishimura-created imageboard and precursor to 4chan. In 2014, following a 2013 data breach that leaked the credit cards of 30,000 anonymous users, Watkins and N.T. Technology seized control of the site, allegedly squeezing out Nishimura.
Frederick Brennan launched 8chan in October 2013. Shortly after Watkins offered to help operate the site, after his son, Ron, informed him about the site. In 2014, Brennan moved to the Philippines, where Watkins lived, to begin their partnership. The following year, Watkins became the owner and operator of 8chan. Four years later, in 2018, Brennan left 8chan, severing ties with the Watkins family. Wired writes:
According to Brennan, when he requested time off from the company, Watkins appeared at Brennan’s condo and berated his employee. Brennan, who says he was naked when this incident occurred, felt vulnerable and afraid. “Because I had a really awful childhood, it kind of put me back in that mode,” he says, “of just dealing with an angry parent or foster parent.”
Brennan severed ties with Watkins in December of that year.
In September 2020, Frederick Brennan accused Watkins of either being Q, the leader of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement or being in communication with them on an episode of the podcast Reply All. Though he says Watkins likely did not start the account, Brennan believes he stole the account. He also questions the timing of a Q post on 8chan, following the site’s three-month closure. During the podcast, Brennan and Reply All host P.J. Vogt have the following exchange:
Fredrick: 8chan went down for 3 months. And during those 3 months all the other communities left because it was such a long time. You know, in Internet terms, three months is a long ass time. No neo-Nazi is sitting around for three months thinking, “Oh well, guess I can’t talk to my friends today. Maybe tomorrow.” You know, it’s not, it’s not how it goes. You know, they are already using 4chan again. And the videogame guys, they all left, too.
The only people that couldn’t leave and that needed Jim were the QAnon people because as long as 8chan was down, QAnon could not post and give them another place to find Q drops.
But there were a lot of people trying to do that when it was down. A lot of people are posting on 4chan saying, “I’m Q, you know, and here’s a drop.”
But nobody could believe them because Q had locked himself into 8chan, where the only person that could validate a Q Drop became Jim Watkins.
Vogt: Which meant that if Q was independent of the Watkins family, the moment the site came back online, obviously the first thing they would do is post a backup. Some new place people could reach them, since it wasn’t clear 8chan was going to be around anymore.
Brennan also based his belief on the IP addresses for 8kun, the rebranded name of 8chan, and QMap, one of the largest QAnon hubs online. They both share the same IP address. In a since deleted tweet, he wrote, “Oh my God. This is not a drill, people. Jim Watkins is the owner of QMap.pub. These were previously thought to be two separate entities.”
Brennan told ABC:
If he’s not ‘Q’ himself, he can find out who ‘Q’ is at any time.
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.
According to ABC, Watkins and his son, Ron, denied by Q.
One former ally said that Watkins was the keeper of a “cesspool of hate.” According to the Washington Post, he “appears to have grown out of his desire to capitalize on the seedier corners of the Internet, hopping between dot-com trends and positioning himself as an eccentric luminary in the communities he helped cultivate.”
Former 2chan owner Hiroyuki Nishimura says of Watkins: “All his businesses have failed […] Even his hosting service was not good.”
In 2019, many criticized Watkins for not shutting down 8chan, after the Christchurch shooting. The shooter of Christchurch was said to have frequented the site. In a statement, he said, “Our company has built and maintained a digital forum that is the place where opposing viewpoints and those of minorities such as the LGBTQ may express themselves free from the fear of their life.” He also called 8chan, one of the last spaces online where “you may write down your thoughts, free from having to worry about whether they are offensive to one group or another.”