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.