In a proceedings paper presented at a Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence social media conference, a team of British, Italian, and Cypriot academics who worked with a Telefonica researcher presented their work analyzing 8,000,000 comments from 4chan's "politically incorrect" (AKA /pol/) boards, a hive of alt-right racism and hate. Read the rest
Dale Beran's been writing about 4chan, /b/ and Anonymous for years, and lurking on their message-boards, and he traces the rise of the self-professed "betas" who embody fragile, toxic masculinity and have been important bellwethers for many internet and real-world phenomena, linking them to Trump as "the loser who won": "Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does." Read the rest
A thread on 4chan's trollish /pol/ board has organized trumpist white-supremacist/alt-right types to find unlicensed venues and spaces and narc them out to city authorities in a bid to shut them down, because they serve as "open hotbeds of liberal radicalism and degeneracy...These places hold Black Lives Matter meetings. These places plan protests that disrupt our cities. These places illegally house our enemies." Read the rest
Trump's fans are having a tough time so far today. First, the realization struck many that one must be registered before election day to vote in all but 14 states. Second, the Trumpernet seems to be context-collapsing: they might yet win the night, but backstabbing and chaos is already upon it. A subreddit, r/the_meltdown, is collecting the most spectacular ragequits. Most are from /pol/, though, which is as much a performance venue as anything else.
Meme factory/Anonymous birthplace/alt-right breeding ground 4chan is facing challenges similar to those plaguing all ad-supported sites, but as with all things channish, 4chan's problems have their own unique and grotesque wrinkles. Read the rest
Google is downranking websites that use pejorative, racist terms like n*gger, so the awful people of 4chan and /pol/ are replacing that word with "google." Read the rest
Some Donald Trump supporters on 4chan--that time-honored bastion of gentility, courtesy, and sensibility-- hatched a plan on the forum to use sockpuppet Twitter accounts to pit Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters against one other. The plan had a slogan: “Let’s troll Bernie and Hillary supporters systematically.”
Their scheme didn’t really work, and has been removed from 4chan. But something like this could be effective in the future--and who knows, another instance of this same political game may be working elsewhere, undetected, right now. Read the rest
Luke McKinney demolishes the idea that notional corruption in the press can be fought by harassing women, or participating in an ex-boyfriend's awful, privacy-invading vendetta against his girlfriend -- and notes that the original incident that sparked the campaign was a fabrication. Read the rest
9/7/2012: Updated with feedback from moot
4chan, the Internet's long-time dumping ground and butt of many a joke, is getting serious about software by making their biggest public-facing code change in nearly a decade, introducing an API and a bunch of new functionality.
Given its reputation, many commentators have already written this off with a shrug and a laugh. But 4chan is also one of the web's most popular and influential communities. It's the source of so many Internet-age cultural trends that even your grandma may be dimly aware that the clever picture she posted on her Facebook was trawled a thousand copies ago from the dark depths of /mlp/. Given that there's big money in all this, the API offers businesses a direct line to the heart of the machine.
As a professional software developer and long time 4chan user, I think this is a pretty interesting development. I talked yesterday afternoon to some of those who worked on 4chan's code over the years and know a little about why this is such an important development. Read the rest
On Ars Technica, Tom Connor does a great job producing a taxonomy and history of rage-faces, showing how they evolved from a set of proscribed, orthodox uses on 4chan to a wider set of uses and meanings in several online communities.
Rage faces slowly migrated from 4chan into other communities. There, they gained popularity and expanded their numbers as artists introduced new faces, and particularly humorous comics went viral in their communities. Though the faces were no longer exclusive to any single forum, they stayed true to the originals in style.
More people got involved, the cartoons mutated and evolved, and like any successful species, they adapted to fit into a wide variety of habitats. "You can trace back the origins to 4chan so you can say [the faces are 4chan's] baby, but it's evolved on such a wide scale that it's gone beyond anyone's single ownership," Swanson said. "Mostly the original faces are from 4chan, but a lot of the newer faces have come out of F7U12, or other places like FunnyJunk."
Biella Coleman and Michael Ralph write a long, nuanced rebuttal of Joseph Menn's recent FT article on Anonymous. Coleman, an academic who has done some fabulous work studying hackers, Anonymous and other 21st century anthropological phenomena, is the person I trust most to produce clear accounts of Anon, 4chan, and related subjects.
Read the rest
These hacks may also, as Menn notes, have unintended and far reaching consequences for all of us. As Menn notes, "Even some supporters worry that if the group continues on its current path, it could trigger a legislative backlash that would bring heightened monitoring at the expense of the privacy that Anonymous prizes." Still, it is crucial that we consider the broader historical perspective. This sort of "legislative backlash" has been in the works at least since 2001, with the Patriot Act, spurred by the terrorist attacks against the Twin Towers. And since that time, there have been many attempts to legislate acts that curtail privacy in the stipulated attempt to make the nation more secure. These legal developments have clearly not simply been instituted in the last year in response to hacks. No doubt, the hacking actions of Anonymous can be used to move legislative proposals into law more rapidly, but portrayals of nefarious hacker criminals also inflames fears about privacy that are long on emotion and short on substance.
Anon hackers are "criminals" in so far as any hacker has inevitably broken a host of laws; some individuals involved may also have a criminal history. And yet most hackers either implicitly or explicitly have critiques of the laws they are willing to transgress.