The surprisingly powerful coven of internet wizards that make up 4chan are known for many things. The site made the news for creating “Rickrolling” and making “Justin Bieber Syphilis” a top Google search. While their wide spectrum of computer pranks is hard to categorize, one thing is certain—the users of 4chan are dedicated. And most recently, they’ve been using their powers to track down kitten dumpers and puppy throwers.Virally speaking, it’s been a horrifying few weeks for cat and dog lovers. Two different videos, both equally shocking, displayed animal abuse across the web. The first was of “Evil British Cat Bin Woman,” a lady who was caught on camera dumping an unsuspecting kitty into a garbage can. The video was released by the owners of the cat, Lola, who discovered the heinous act on their security cameras after finding Lola in the can. The other video, which just started gaining attention in the past 48 hours, is of a teenage girl chucking puppies from a bucket into a nearby river.
In both cases, these videos found their way on to 4chan’s infamous /b/ page, where their users decided to take action. In the case of the Evil British Cat Bin woman, it was 4chan who forced the woman out of hiding to apologize and hopefully be punished for the crime. Within a few hours of the clip being posted, the woman’s identity was discovered—her name is Mary Bale—and a barrage of death threats, pranks, and emails to both her and her place of work followed. The ensuing harassment was so strong that Bale was forced to go into hiding by the police.
Now, the same sort of vigilante justice is in the works for the teenage dog thrower. Users are trying to uncover the teenager’s identity by tracing the origins of the video and taking to Facebook to question their suspects. Unlike with the case of Mary Bale, no one has yet to crack under 4chan’s pressure and confess to the crime, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop.
4chan’s vicious brand of citizen’s arrest poses an interesting issue. On one hand, it is good to see that sick acts like this don’t go unpunished. But this is bullying. And plenty of 4chan’s users have no interest in becoming an internet watchdog group, preferring to stick to shenanigans instead. All this makes many wonder if encouraging justice-seeking via 4chan could just create more havoc than anything else?
What do you think: Can and/or should 4chan become the masked superhero of the internet or does it hold too much darkness to become a true vigilante?