For the last few months, Donald Trump's campaign has spent a lot of time distancing him from the white supremacist groups that seem to have embraced his message.
The GOP nominee has found himself in this position as some of his noisier supporters online circulate racist memes on his behalf and congregate on websites and message boards known for their open racism, in particular 8chan, one of the internet's most notorious hate hubs.
Visitors to 8chan also happen to frequent donaldjtrump.com, according to referral data from analytics firm SimilarWeb. 8chan is one of the top 10 referrers to Trump's campaign site, according to the service, providing a small but growing percentage of its traffic.
8chan is an image-focused message board that was created in late 2013 by a former contributor to another message board, 4chan, who felt that 4chan — which itself is known for racism, misogyny, bomb threats and more — was too tame. 8chan came to prominence during the Gamergate controversy in 2014 and was identified as an organizing spot for people online (largely men) who liked to share racist memes and what the tech blog Gizmodo called "the nastiest shit on the internet."
Although most people will likely never encounter 8chan directly (in part because Google does not link to the site in search results for "8chan"), the board has left its mark on the 2016 campaign trail. When Trump caught flak earlier this summer for tweeting an anti-Semitic meme about Hillary Clinton, Mic.com discovered that the image was created by 8chan users.
The SimilarWeb traffic data shows that from February through July, 8chan was the ninth-largest source of referral traffic for Trump's website, clocking in at about 2.3 percent of all such traffic. This puts it just below Breitbart.com (whose CEO is now Trump's campaign chief) and a few places above the Washington Post and New York Times.
By comparison, SimilarWeb data shows Hillary Clinton's top five referrers include CNN, hillaryspeeches.com, the Drudge Report and the video gaming forum NeoGAF.
In total, 8chan doesn't represent a wild amount of traffic: around 74,000 desktop visits from February through August 28. Quantcast ballparks Trump's July monthly traffic at around 2.1 million. But 8chan's share is growing; its referral traffic to Trump's website increased by around 580 percent in July from the month before.
And more significantly, it is unusual that a niche site like 8chan — which is basically what you would get if you were attempting to synthesize an online hate speech haven in a test tube — registers at all in referring traffic to the website of a major party's nominee for president.The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.