We love a good Internet investigation, so we got a real kick out of Gawker’s look inside a smear campaign. Things we learned this time around:
- 4channers don’t all like electro-pop. Apparently they’re 50/50 split heavy metal and indie.
- 4chan got their site’s founder voted Time magazine’s most influential person.
- On a related note, Time thinks 4chan invented LOLCats. There’s published books of cat pictures with funny captions from the 1960s, at least.
- There’s a website called ‘refreshthing’ that automates Google-bombing. Or at least (if you’re reading this a few days from now), there was.
- 4channers can’t hack for a damn.
This is a good time to look at web culture. It’s the street we do business in; being streewise is a good thing. It’s important because we’ve seen this scary glimpse into Internet mob mentality, and what basically amounts to Internet street gangs, and that tells us things about the future. It tells us that even greater control of the web frontier is in the future. As always happens, the hooligans of today will age into the uptight, conservative nannies of tomorrow. Coupled together with the moral panic over Internet bullying, we’re going to see a future where the overkill of the cure is worse than the disease.
We’re also fantastically misguided. Everyone reading this right now should consider Reddit.com, and not 4chan, as the source of the threat. Reddit is just as anonymous as 4chan – it won’t challenge the name you enter, not even to demand an email – and most of 4chan and Reddit membership has an overlap. But Reddit is actually where the campaigns start, and since, unlike 4chan, posts on Reddit stay there indefinitely, one can trace the mob’s path through Reddit before it comes to 4chan. Furthermore, you’ll discover than many of the acts of petty web vandalism are actually financially motivated in the first place. Viral marketing – fighting dirty!
But really, the whole web mob is a moving target. Their name, after all, is Anonymous.