Showdown at the 4chan corral: Doug Rushkoff

Doug Rushkoff's latest piece for the Daily Beast is something of a post-mortem on the recent Anonymous vs. AT&T internet battle, with a dash of cultural anthropology and spaghetti western for good measure. Snip:

When AT&T recently blocked access to a hugely popular hackers' Web site, 4chan.org, many of us Internet old-timers froze in place. It was like one of those bad Westerns, when an arrogant newcomer sits down in the saloon, and then insults the baddest, most trigger-happy gunslinger in the county. People move to the side of the room, climb under tables, and wait for the shots to fly.

The 4Chan community--a diehard, if ever-changing assortment of the Net's most-desperate, most-anonymous, and most-wanted, well, punks--smelled censorship, top-down control, and an evil corporation trying to keep down the world's last squat for hackers. They went batshit. The site's founder posted a note telling his minion's to write and complain to AT&T, and the dog whistle having been heard, a posse called "Project AT&T," quickly formed, dedicated to revenge.

It turns out AT&T was really just trying to protect the site, and its own servers, from a typical "denial of service" attack. (Hackers create a feedback loop of pings and requests that overloads the target Web site.) AT&T's solution--to move 4Chan to a new IP address--was crude but ultimately effective. Project AT&T called a temporary truce, the bar piano started playing again, and the world went back to normal.

But the whole episode reminded me that, in spite of the Web's seemingly secure and consumer-friendly facade, there is still some Wild West left out there. And 4Chan is the OK Corral. So like a middle-aged Australian businessman going on walkabout, I decided to spend a couple of weeks embedded in this famously depraved, raucously fertile community.

The Web's Dirtiest Site (Daily Beast)

Doug's new book: Life, Inc.