When I first went to 4chan.org, I didn’t know what the heck was going on. It’s a pretty plain-looking site with long lists of random topics that users can click on. However, once I unlocked the secrets of this site, I realized that it’s basically like an internet army. It’s turned into a place where people suggest pranks and get lots of others to participate. The peeps on this site make rumors so widespread that people think they’re true, they rig person-of-the-year contests and are even the ones behind Rickrolling, an internet bait-and-switch where users are tricked into clicking on a link that looks relevant—say, a trailer for “Grand Theft Auto IV”—only to find the music video for “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. After the jump, some other famous 4chan hijinx — some funny, others not so much.
In June, tons of users decided they wanted to make “Justin Bieber Syphilis” the number one Google search term. And they actually succeeded.
In April 2009, members of 4chan rigged Time Magazine’s “Time 100″ poll so that the number one most influential person was moot, 4chan’s anonymous founder. Pranksters also rigged the top fifth of the poll so the first letter of every person’s name spelled out “Marblecake Also the Game.” FOX reporters guessed this was either a tribute to a Nazi resistance poem or an obscure sexual practice which I can’t find explained anywhere because, apparently, it’s really, really disgusting.
There is also significant reason to believe that 4chan is behind “Anonymous,” the group that’s widely known for staging protests against the Church of Scientology, wearing those really creepy Guy Fawkes masks, itself a 4chan meme. In January 2008, a 4chan suggested that participants “do something big” against the Church of Scientology, and the Church itself admitted that it received more than 6,000 threatening phone calls in the aftermath.
The memes aren’t all bad: 4chan has also gotten attention for spawning things like LOLcats and is often used for discussing anime and manga. Other topics range from cooking and literature to weapons, Pokemon and “sexy beautiful women.” I saw some pretty cool original art on the artwork section but there were also a fair amount of a-holes talking smack about peoples’ work. Self-promotion also abounds.
One of the weirdest parts of 4chan is the random board, also known as “/b/.” There are no standards and few rules, so users post pretty much anything they want. Those who are familiar with the site often have strange inside jokes that are indecipherable to outsiders. When I clicked on “/b/” I was pretty confused. I saw a lot of naked women, random artwork and sentences that made no sense. I decided to call it a day after seeing a close-up of someone’s lymph node, completely consumed by melanoma. The “/b/” users recently gained attention for harassing an 11-year-old girl named Jessi Slaughter, herself a bit of a micro-internet celebrity, resulting in her being put under police protection and her dad recording a YouTube video defending her that eventually went viral. When the website Gawker.com called 4chan out for being “ground zero for internet mischief,” “the Internet’s worst trolls,” and making a child cry, 4chan’s users responded with a series of denial-of-service attacks in an attempt to shut down Gawker by overloading its servers.
In other words, check out 4chan, but be cautious, and remember that if you piss off angry mega-nerds, they will f**k with your internet or wear scary masks in front of your place of worship.