Internet

The Internet: Where Pranks Trump Villainy in Apparent Effectiveness

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The Washington Post discovers that haven for surprisingly effective pranksters, 4Chan:

Corporations spend millions of dollars trying to understand and control traffic on the Internet, and more often than not they don't succeed. 4chan has mastered the feat for free.

Created seven years ago by a 15-year-old, 4chan is a vast web of anonymous, uncensored message boards. No one's in charge, but the site's users have managed to pull off some of the highest-profile collective actions in the history of the Internet.

The 4chan "hive mind" has been credited with—or blamed for, depending on your perspective—urging tween idol Justin Bieber to head for North Korea as part of his upcoming world tour (as part of an online poll allowing fans to select which country he should visit), spreading a story that Steve Jobs had a heart attack (which caused Apple's stock to fall precipitously) and starting a rumor that there was a bomb at New York's JFK airport (triggering an evacuation)…..

How 4chan—a site built for fun by a teenager that barely ekes out a profit from online ads—manages over and over again to outwit the systems that multibillion-dollar corporations use to make money on the Internet is one of the great mysteries of the capricious online world.

While part of 4chan's ability to manipulate search rankings comes from the use of clever technical tools, a large percentage must still come from sheer manpower because of safeguards Google has throw out searches that seem to be automated.

[4Chan founder Christopher] Poole, who says he neither instigated nor participated in any of the pranks, explains how 4chan users manage to get on Google Trends. They say, " 'Let's seize this idea.' " They then spread word through the discussion boards, e-mails, chat services and so on, asking everyone to search for a specific word or words at a certain time.

Next, Poole said, outsiders fan the flames. "Bloggers start to see this trending and think there must be a story, and all start to post stories. Higher up the totem pole, the bigger media outlets see rumors, and they'll comment, 'Hey look what everyone else is looking at,' " he said.

In summation, in delightful deadpan newspaper-ese:

Why people would decide to spend their time following suggestions by 4chan is what's unclear in this chain of events.

It does make one wonder why the more sinister end of Internet fuckery, such as completely destructive virus, worms, and the like, aren't succeeding more widely and frequently than they do. Probably the same reason one can walk down the streets without getting punched in the face daily: humans don't tend to be nearly as big a bunch of douchebags as we are perfectly capable of being, even when nothing at all is stopping us.

Wired profiled 4Chan as a center of messing about with the Church of Scientology last year.

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  1. MOAR!

    1. 4chan is made of people.

      1. Basement dwelling teen nerds are not people.

      1. Nice, heller…making the “link” text orange without it actually linking to anything. HTML genius!

        1. The SugarFree school of html.

  2. Why people would decide to spend their time following suggestions by 4chan instead of spending their hard earned money and reading our fine newspaper is what’s unclear in this chain of events.

    No, what’s unclear is how the Washington Post is still an operational business.

    1. They own Kaplan Test Prep.

      1. Exactly. Heck, that’s where the majority of WaPo’s revenue comes from.

  3. After rattling off some of 4chan’s “accomplishments”, the WaPo can’t figure out why people play?

    C’mon, sending some tween idol to North Korea is fucking genius.

    1. Maybe they drove that flight attendant to, well, do what he did.

      1. He probably had that lover for a while. Maybe it was a long term prank.

    2. Starting false bomb scares, on the other hand, is just snotty.

      1. Depends on where you do it.

  4. Probably the same reason one can walk down the streets without getting punched in the face daily

    My arms get so tired.

  5. 4chan is a shitpile of delusional teens with too much free time on their hands and not an original thought in their tiny little skulls.

    1. True, but you sure as hell don’t want to attract their attention, now do you?

      1. True and if it didn’t exist someone would have to invent it.

        I just think its odd that 4channers take pride in being part of a festering hivemind whose greatest accomplishments consist of skewing internet polls and “protesting” a cult of equally delusional retards. They act like they are an unstoppable force, but you never see them attacking government agencies or even larger corporations.

        1. This is how Logan’s Run gets started.

          1. The happy ending to that one is THX1138.

        2. 4chan attacking Australian gov’t sites: http://www.news.com.au/technol…..5828788264

        3. Bullshit. Their greatest achievement is the invention of lolcats.

      2. 4chan is a shitpile of delusional teens with too much free time on their hands and not an original thought in their tiny little skulls.

        True, but you sure as hell don’t want to attract their attention, now do you?

        Similar to my views on the government.

    2. Sauce?

      1. Tits or GTFO

        1. Hes a dude. Femanons don’t exist

    3. Most of the memes you see on the internet come from 4chan.

      sage

      1. I prefer SomethingAwful. It’s like taking 4chan and putting some lipstick on it.

  6. ???????????????????????????????
    Everyone above this line is whatever kind of gay they don’t like.

    1. Phew.

    2. Damn, you got me…

  7. Does this explain Paris Hilton?

    1. You spelled Perez wrong.

      1. Nothing possibly could explain Perez Hilton.

  8. Corporations spend millions of dollars trying to understand and control traffic on the Internet, and more often than not they don’t succeed. 4chan has mastered the feat for free.

    We can understand and control the traffic on the internet.

  9. Brian is blaming this on the corporations!

  10. In my town there is a what is called the apple blossom festival. In the old days youngsters would “cruise the ave”. What was weird is that towards the end before the city figured out how to put ave cruising to and end the super geeks (essentially the group of high school kids who played D&D) would go cruuising and ask women to show them their tits and video tape them. I was always skeptical of it thinking it would never work.

    That was until I actually saw one of their video tapes.

    That is my impression of 4chan. A place where super geeks can get women to show them their tits.

    1. Your town “invented” Carnival and 4chan continues it. Colour me amazed.

    2. Anapolis Royal?

  11. 4chan is full of white knights and summerfags. Avoid it, and seek other sources for your daily dose of lulz.

    1. Summerfag: assholes who troll after getting out of school.

      How is this even possible? Why would students troll when they are on summer break yet not troll when they are in school?

      1. Presumably, while they’re in school they have to attend classes and do homework. True 4chan vets live in the basement and post 24/7.

  12. Good God, m00t raised over half a million in donations?!?

    “4chan is one of those things where we get a brief glimpse of what the future looks like,”: And the future is a 16 year old camwhore sticking a pen up her unmentionable places while millions of nerds cheer and jeer.

  13. “urging tween idol Justin Bieber to head for North Korea as part of his upcoming world tour (as part of an online poll allowing fans to select which country he should visit), spreading a story that Steve Jobs had a heart attack (which caused Apple’s stock to fall precipitously) and starting a rumor that there was a bomb at New York’s JFK airport (triggering an evacuation)…..”

    Voting manipulation (for a silly fan participation poll admittedly), spreading vicious lies, and a literal example of the old saw of yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. Why do 4chan’s hive mind accomplishments all seem kind of evil?

    Of course Poole does not admit to partcipating in the “pranks”, he could get arrested for them, especially the JFK bomb threat. How much money, and unfortuate traveler’s time did that stunt lose? When did fraud become admirable?

    1. True, but they’re Chaotic Evil, so they’re somewhat of a counterbalance to the predominant trend of Lawful Evil we hear about here daily.

      1. Sorry but I gotta correct that…

        “True, but they’re Chaotic Stupid, so they’re somewhat of a counterbalance to the predominant trend of Lawful Stupid we hear about here daily.”

        Plus there are lots of pictures of boobies at 4chan…

    2. i’m suprised they left out when we voted pedobear as miley’s #1 fan.

    3. But you’ll have to admit that bringing attention to the crimes and fraud of Scientology is a good thing.

  14. “humans don’t tend to be nearly as big a bunch of douchebags as we are perfectly capable of being”
    -We save it for elections.

  15. 4chan posters sure hate black people.

  16. Oh god I wish I didnt just see this post.
    I. LOVE. 4CHAN.

    For the simple reason that it’s such a rapidly evolving culture of filth and evil that…I just can’t look away.

    Also, MOAR

  17. “Why people would decide to spend their time following suggestions by 4chan is what’s unclear in this chain of events.”

    Oh for goodness’ sake, it’s the same reason people get tramp stamps and pierce their nipples–it’s so obvious.

    Seriously though, when what Lindsey Lohan and Sarah Palin don’t do every day makes the news, 4chan is one of the few things in this world that actually makes sense.

  18. It does make one wonder why the more sinister end of Internet fuckery, such as completely destructive virus, worms, and the like, aren’t succeeding more widely and frequently than they do.

    I’d say there are more people interested in stopping such things from being successful than people trying to make successfully destructive programs. Computer nerds are a competitive bunch.

    4chan is an interesting bunch. The originals even moar so.

    1. Actually if you recall in the early 2000s and late 90’s viruses were rampant and destructive and everywhere….only the internet was not as important as it is now nor as old.

      The difference now is it is way easier to stop most viruses and easier to trace their origin.

    2. The people who are capable of true internet destruction are the ones who can’t live without it.

  19. I am 12 and what is this?

  20. About viruses. They use to be far more destructive because people were far less computer literate, then the people propagating the garbage. However, even I, who am nearly thirty, was raised on the internet, and had access to a computer my whole life. My entire generation, the “millennials”, are the echo of boomers.

    Almost everyone can rid their system of something damaging. And besides, viruses, have largely been replaced with insidious programs that make people money – not simply ruin the welfare of another person for no reason. Why be an anarchist when there is money to be made?

    In that vein:

    4Chan should target their attacks, if they continue to do so, in a zerg – no, no, borg-esque hivemind at groups that actually harm their hive. Like terrorist message boards, websites and the alike. Scientology (again, and again, not here and there) and quite frankly whatever party runs contrary to their political ideals. Who am I kidding? The right.

    Then they can get their kicks, and use whatever Ayn Randian or Communist (who am I kidding, communist) ideals to become legendary – instead of Aston Kutcherery.

    I am calling you out Annoyingamus.

    1. Who are you kidding?

  21. “humans don’t tend to be nearly as big a bunch of douchebags as we are perfectly capable of being”

    I love reading this line

  22. No mentions of 4chan and Iran?

    Saying this makes me shudder, but the 4chan crew get props for that.

    1. Uh, for what?

      1. There is no Iran, only Tehran

  23. none of us are as cruel as all of us

  24. 4chan is really good at manipulating trivial crap for brief periods of time.

    not the kind of thing that spawns an industry of anti-4chan software.

  25. 4chan is a community for people who have none. I know it sounds weird to call a collection of people where no one knows who the others are a community, but that’s what it is. And not all of us are basement dwelling nerds.
    Back when it was still small, they dished out their own versions of vigilante justice. But as it grew bigger you got the “let’s just do it for the lulz” crowd and that’s when 4chan exploded. They did stuff just because they thought it was funny. Prostesting scientology, vote manipulations, remember when they got Oprah to read the 4chan creed with the additional “over 9000 penises and they are all raping children”? That was considered a huge victory.
    The last great “real” thing they did was shutting down Australia’s government pages when they decided to start blocking internet porn. Did it change anything? No. But it did send a message. Unfortunately 4chan isn’t the same and they probably won’t do anything “real” ever again. I’m shocked that nothing happened when Verizon blocked the site – if ever there was a reason for 4chan to do something that was probably it.

  26. 4chan used to be a lot of really smart people pretending to be utterly stupid. There’s something to be said for that once in a while.

    Not that H&R readers would know anything about that.

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