Wikipedia Through the Looking Glass/4chan

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File:4chan - The Wikipedia POV.pdf


4chan was started in October 20031, by a 15-year-old boy named Christopher Poole2 (T3-H4-L5-F6-C7), best known by his handle "moot". The original focus was for exchange of images from Japanese anime and manga, moot's obsession (many of the subboards allow only Japanese cartoon imagery). It imitated the popular Japanese bulletin board "Futaba Channel", or 2ch.net8, but for English speakers. 4chan quickly became one of the most popular messageboards on the entire Internet, because of two features: it allows the posting of any image file from any source, and it is completely anonymous. Poole claims that no IP address records are kept and none of the users can be traced or analyzed. Slate writer David Auerbach discussed the origins of "anonymous trolling culture" on the Internet in his 2012 essay on Canopy39, which is little known.


Describing /b in just one picture

4chan became popular for exchanging copyrighted files, pornography, and child pornography. It also became a primary source for, and disseminator of, Internet memes10 (T11-H12-L13-F14-C15). 4chan is often rumored to be a major meeting point for hackers and for members of the protest collective Anonymous. The most notorious subboard, /b/, is famous for its total lack of restrictions on image posting. Child pornography, racism, misogyny, and defamation regularly appear there, despite the efforts of moot and his other moderators to keep illegal content out. Hackers also use it to communicate. Regular /b/ users are appropriately known as "/b/tards".

WP and 4chan

Despite appearances, 4chan has some connections to Wikipedia, and some of those connections are very deep ones. The pseudo-libertarian and abusive attitudes are shared in many ways, and there is unquestionably a cohort of 4chan regulars also editing or administrating Wikipedia. Unfortunately, moot set 4chan up deliberately to make study of its users, and make connections between them and other websites, impossible. It is the most profoundly anonymous popular website of all. Regardless of the deep connections, Wikipedia's public relationship to 4chan, like its connection to Anonymous and other hacker groups, is fraught with paranoia and contention. The histories of related articles contain much disputation, which makes no sense until an understanding of the paranoid, shortattention-span hacker aesthetic is applied to them.

  • Avery "Shii" Morrow was one of moot's most dedicated early users, and was deeply involved in

the evolution of 4chan. He later appeared on Wikipedia and became an administrator of questionable value. See Administrators_noticeboard#Shii_.28T-C-F-R-B.29. Editor's note: the reference to AN is unintelligible without a permanent link or archive number. The user is Shii.

  • In December 2004, the earliest version of the 4chan article16 (T17-H18-L19-F20-C21) was put up for deletion22. The vote was "Keep" all the way across. Most of the voters were obviously 4chan users such as Shii/Ashibaka, and/or had connections to the hacker world. The first person to vote "keep" is the notorious early administrator Pat Gunn (Improv23), a dedicated free-culture warrior who quit Wikipedia in January 2007, disgusted with its increasingly corrupt and procorporate attitude.
  • Another attempt to delete24 in 2006. Again, much the same results. In both RFAs, another early

WP editor and culture warrior, Antaeus Feldspar25 (Joseph Crowley), voted to keep.

  • Despite being a subject that some Wikipedians despise, the 4chan article was made a Featured Article26 in 2008. The nominator27, Giggy28, was a popular WP editor and a regular contributor to Wikipedia Review. Giggy quit Wikipedia in 2010 after a disastrous 2008 RFA29.
  • Shortly before that happened, someone claiming to be Poole showed up on AN/I30 and asked

that Poole's BLP be deleted. It was not.

  • 4chan is regularly reported31 for link-spamming on Wikipedia.
  • Grawp supposedly used 4chan to coordinate attacks on Wikipedia.

Success breeds success

The popularity of 4chan inevitably produced imitators. A master list32 of them went up in 2008; it is presently outdated. 7chan33 is frequently said to be one of the most hostile "chan" imageboards of all. Amongst other things, it was implicated in an attack on the Epilepsy Foundation's website.34

"JavaScript code and flashing computer animations were posted to trigger migraine headaches and seizures in photosensitive and pattern-sensitive epileptics. According to Wired News, circumstantial evidence suggested that the attack was perpetrated by Anonymous users, with the initial attack posts on the epilepsy forum blaming eBaum's World. Members of the epilepsy forum claimed they had found a thread in which the attack was being planned at, an imageboard that has been described as a stronghold for Anonymous. The thread, like all old threads eventually do on these types of imageboards, has since cycled to deletion."

This situation continued until the Zoe Quinn/Gamergate controversy occurred, which caused 4chan sysops to purge some sections. See below.

Boards Against Humanity

"Why isn’t 4chan’s founder accountable for 4chan’s offenses?"35<,sup>, Slate, 26 Sept 2014.

"Responsibility for drawing this line lies only with Poole himself. Tech gadfly Anil Dash once wrote36, “[I]f your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault.” Dash excoriated many of 4chan’s anonymous policies and those who share Poole’s hands-off attitude: “[T]ake some goddamn responsibility for what you unleash on the world.” Whether or not you agree with Poole’s views on freedom of speech (I myself am in fact sympathetic, if not in total agreement), Dash is right that Poole bears the ultimate responsibility for the standards—or lack thereof—set in place on 4chan. For all the bile directed at “4chan” and “4chan users,” very little of it has been directed at the single person with the ability to change the site’s standards and enforce them, should he so desire. It’s one thing to share a site with awful people; it’s another to make money off of them."
"Moreover, 4chan’s notoriety has not made Poole any less palatable to the tech world, which has accepted him as a budding young entrepreneur. Poole’s recently deceased startup Canvas got venture capital backing from the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, and Lerer Ventures, among others; BuzzFeed Chairman Kenneth Lerer made Poole an adviser to his VC firm; fellow Lerer adviser Jonah Peretti, who is also BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO, gushed that Poole “has the deepest understanding of community dynamics and hacker culture of anyone I have ever met.” Meanwhile, BuzzFeed writers such as Rossalyn Warren and Ryan Broderick have written more than a dozen articles criticizing 4chan users without mentioning that both their chairman and CEO have connections to Mr. 4chan himself. For all the buzz about 4chan lately, I have seen no criticism leveled at Poole directly, nor any interviews with him since 2013, when he reiterated his hands-off approach to moderation. If there is going to be a conversation about 4chan, Poole should be a major part of it."

GamerGate and Poole's resignation

The Zoe Quinn/Gamergate war was a popular "area of discussion" on 4chan. The argumentation and trolling became so pervasive that moot shut down the /gg/ section and told them to go elsewhere, and was promptly attacked as a "misogynist" and a "feminist" by both sides. 4chan traffic dropped off as the arguers went elsewhere, mostly to 8chan37, which soon became one of the busiest imageboards on the web.

"4chan's Overlord Christopher Poole Reveals Why He Walked Away"38, Rolling Stone, 13 March 2015.

"Poole has never made money with 4chan — he tried to monetize the site's extraordinary traffic, but advertisers were always too wary of the site's content. Not long ago, he was $20,000 in debt and had moved back in with his mom.....Managing the site's content started to come with a price. Poole began getting death threats from angry 4channers. "I get a lot of e-mails of a threatening nature," he tells me. "It flares up if there is a decision that I have made that upsets people." Poole's response is to be private to the point of paranoia — he insists upon concealing his current location, countries he recently visited and even the name of the university he briefly attended."
"....As the threats grew, hackers began releasing Quinn's personal information. They also targeted women who came to her defense, including feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian and game developer Brianna Wu. 4chan "fosters an anonymous culture" of haters, Quinn tells me. "Giving them room to set up a mob and run unchecked is not helpful."
"But Poole, to the victims' relief, banned all Gamergate discussion from his site. 4channers struck back, calling him a "soulless informant," saying he "doesn't give a shit" and that he "hasn't cared about 4chan for years now." Poole says the stress wore him down. "Week after week after week after week, there's this new controversy," he recalls. "I kept getting drawn back in." Though he'd been thinking about leaving the site for at least a year, he'd finally had enough after enduring what he tells me was "probably the most stressful month of my life." Part of his motivation was a question that 4channers had been asking for years: "What happens to 4chan if you were to die?" Poole would deadpan that since his mom was his next of kin, "I guess you're going to be stuck with my mother as your new overlord.""

Lest anyone should be tempted to feel sorry for young Mr. Poole, please note that in 2016 he was hired39 by Google. To work on their failed attempts to build a "social network", apparently40. Little else is known about Poole's work at Google, as that company is infamous for its secrecy.


• This "anonymous bulletin board" is so popular, it has its own press area41. • WP article on 4chan42 - very long, with 176 references as of 2015, in spite of many previous attempts to delete it. Obviously, Wikipedians consider 4chan to be "important". • TIME magazine on Poole43 • How 4chan hackers hacked TIME magazine's website, 200944 • 4chan users seize Internet's power for mass disruptions45 • As usual, the ED article46 is full of useful information, mixed in with tripe. • A man murders a woman, and posts the photos on 4chan and Imgur, in order to "brag". 47,48,49

See also

Hacker culture


(see link status on Discussion page)