Recently, many people have been discussing the death of 4chan. Given the importance 4chan has played in many internet events, the politics of 4chan themselves is often overlooked. So here is a handy guide to the current 4chan situation, as well as some of its own history.
4chan was started in 2003 as an image board, modeled after similar style message boards such as 2chan, a Japanese version of the forum. Users do not need an account to post, to sign in, or to identify themselves. Posts are usually labelled as anonymous, although there is some variation in this. The site was created by Moot, and first advertised on the SomethingAwful forums, where the initial user base and mod team were recruited. The idea behind the anonymous image boards has been one of free speech, one which 4chan initially championed[1,2].
In the early days of the site the boards contained a lot of pornography, such as lolicon (often drawn images of loltia like or underage girls in sexual positions), gore, guro (a simple definition is erotic gore, but there is a lot more to it) and eventually child pornography (CP). Some of the first boards created were to stem the flow from the /b/ board. Along with this pornography, posts surrounding drug use, trolling and raiding people, racism, sexism and other illegal, or dark topics were a mainstay of the board. Many of these eventually came to become part of what is referred to as “board culture”. This is the general attitude and acceptability of certain posts and topics on the chan. Users would often be locked into an endless one up-man-ship contest, where the object was to try and push the limits of the site and rules as much as possible.
The trolling and raiding of individuals has surprisingly been the biggest issue for 4chan in its life. Raiding individuals is far different from what many call “trolling” today. Some of most illustrative are the epilepsy forum raids (whilst not planned on 4chan, their numbers were used) and Hal Turner. In the epilepsy forum raids numerous epilepsy forums and websites across the world were targeted. It was found that on some of these sites gifs could be posted, so anons (chan users) signed up to these forums in droves, and at a set time and date began posting as many seizure inducing gifs as possible onto the site. The idea was to hopefully induce seizures in some people, but also by using such a huge volume and number of posts, images and accounts, make the mess incredibly hard to clean up. This would result in downtime for the various forums as they attempted to clean up. The racism row surrounds the former internet radio and white supremacist Hal Turner. Despite casual and hardline racism being the norm on early 4chan, it was often seen as more important to find someone who gave a brilliant reaction when trolled, a “lulzcow”. This was found in Hal Turner, who suffered a sustained campaign of harassment both on the air and into his personal life by the denizens of 4chan.
Moot has almost always been operating 4chan at a monetary loss for himself, something the community rarely discusses. Traffic for 4chan was so great that after its first month of being up, Moot was already searching for donations to pay for the server bill. Indeed in its first year of being operational there were many instances of Moot requesting money to keep it going due to such a large volume of traffic and no form of advertising.
The content of the site was also so problematic that the site was continuously moved to different hosting companies from its intial creation. Indeed, former enemies of 4chan in the past would often email the hosting company complaining about the CP and other drawn images posted on the site, in order to force them to move. This issue caused at least 2 “deaths” of 4chan.
4chan donations were also stopped for a short while due to an ongoing dispute with paypal, once again surrounding the content posted, and resulting from someone reporting them to paypal.
But perhaps the closest thing to this latest 4chan death is /b/day. This was also caused by raids. Following a series of successful raids, such as the Habbo Hotel raids, a group of 4channers took it upon themselves to conduct some “midnight” raids. This comprised of seeking out and attacking various, mainly furry and diaper furry websites. Content was spammed and personal details found. Website vulnerabilities were also exploited during this time. Following this Moot made a sticky on the front page of /b/, claiming that any illegal activity would result in a permanent ban and details would be handed to the police, and anyone participating in that thread would also receive a 2 week ban. [2,3]
These new rules were not enforced well, however, and by the following week the site had reverted to normality once again, with CP, gore, and raids all returning, albeit in much smaller numbers. The damage was done to the user base though. A great many left the site in a mass exodus, similar to what current 4channers are proposing. New chans were established during this time also; 420chan for drug users, 420 and 711 for those who wished to continue raiding and the now infamous 12chan for the paedophiles on the site.
The current situation and possible mass exodus of 4chan is a complicated collision of many internet communities. Moot, the owner of 4chan, has over the past few days/weeks removed most of the previous mods of the site, and replaced them with self proclaimed social justice warriors (SJWs). These new moderators brought a whole new bunch of posting rules for the typically “free” user base, creating the new possible exodus from the site.
SJWs are individuals concerned with social justice and equality, often associated with feminist movements, anti racist movements, etc. The communities cause friction with anti-feminists, men’s rights activists, white supremacists, etc, but also with many who would not consider themselves any of those groups. Social justice warriors use terms surrounding the idea of privilege (i.e. white privilege, thin privilege, male privilege), and often use these terms to shut down arguments. Also the idea of oppression is important in considering terms like racism, where only an oppressed group can suffer racism, i.e. only non white people can experience racism, whereas slurs, etc against a white individual would be termed bigotry or racial discrimination. Their tactics are also often criticised, with many pointing out how off putting and problematic the aggressive and on occasion underhand tactics employed are. In the latest blow to the social justice community, Emma Watson was recently threatened with nude photos being leaked of her because of her stance on women’s rights. This was initially blamed on 4chan, however it has since been revealed that this was in fact an SJW media group. In an attempt to take revenge on 4chan they spread the fake story. Whilst they may use the same tactics as trolls and /b/tards, because of their political differences, especially that of free speech, has made both groups enemies. The picture blogging site tumblr is often seen as the hub for SJWs on the internet.
The reason for the drastic changes to 4chan is linked to the independence day raids. Tumblr users initially organised a raid on 4chan to “clean up the /b/ board”. The random board, normally populated by a huge range of controversial topics, was flooded with posts talking about rights for women, feminism and other social justice associated topics. The /b/tards (denizens of 4chans /b/ or random board) responded to this attempted invasion by posting gore and pornography to force the tumblrites (tumblr users) off the board. In retaliation, the independence day raids were organised, where multiple /b/tards organised tumblr accounts and began posting specifically triggering and horrific images under commonly used tags normally used by SJWs. I.e. “#woc #poc #femism” tags would be flooded with porn, gore and other specifically triggering images so that anyone on tumblr searching for these tags would see this.
After this, most of the information comes from sources wishing to remain anonymous, and so is hard to verify.
In response to this, an anonymous individual reportedly contacted Moot claiming a girl had attempted to commit suicide over these raids, although this is unconfirmed. The girl in question is supposedly the niece of Nick Denton, owner of Gawker media. There are claims that this individual used the attempted suicide as leverage to force Moot to change the way in which 4chan was run, asking Moot to censor and ban individuals attacking “SJWs”. This message was passed onto the moderators of 4chan, some of whom did as asked, where others continued mocking them, as 4chan had done previously. A point of contention was apparently dashcon and the actions of users and mods mocking the event, rightly so in the minds of many outside the SJW community.
Next came various incidents surrounding gamergate and 4chan. Moot was seen to be endorsing Anita Sarkesian at an event surrounding online harassment, something that 4chan is somewhat adept at. Next mods were found to be removing threads surrounding the gamergate fiasco from various boards, citing sexism as the reason for removing them, a ban reason possibly never before seen on 4chan. Posts were also being removed for racism, homophobia, etc. Once again a new experience for many on 4chan, especially given the issues of white supremacy and 4chan /pol/ board.
A former mod came forward to supposedly explain the situation. He claimed that most of the old mod team had been removed, eventually only 4 of the 40 plus left. The rest were replaced by various “SJWs”, most of whom have been attempting to ban and delete what many considered “board culture”. This was felt by most to be the death and end of 4chan, with other chans reporting a similar change in mods and ban/delete rulings (420chan, wizardchan, 7chan, mchan, shrekchan to name a few).
The final nail came from Moot himself who has supposedly said “Just because I made a site for freedom of speech, doesn’t mean I agreed with what you guys were posting” .
But is this the death of 4chan? Supposedly 4chan has been dying since it’s inception practically. Unlike the /b/day exodus, this latest change in moderators may actually signal the end of 4chans decade long run. Many advertisers refuse to allow their adverts to be displayed, and Moot has spent a great deal of time asking for donations to keep the site running. With the new moderators being against most of common board culture, the user base of 4chan may begin to shrink, or change at the very least, making the site a far more tenable and possibly profitable proposition.
But for the channers worrying about this change, all is not lost. The /b/ day events created a great many new specialised chans for the exodus. This has already been happening, with 8chan being listed as the new place to go. Also, whilst many chans experienced a loss of mods and possible SJW replacement, this has not been the case for all. Indeed, 888chans lulzcow board has strong links to “Thereturnofkings”, a dedicated Men’s Rights blog.