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Commentary: Anonymity fuels Internet sub-culture

Karo Chakhlasyan, Staff Writer

Karo Chakhlasyan, Staff Writer

 

An FBI agent slams my face against the floor; another agent seizes my laptop. My parents are screaming in fear and confusion as the agents are trying to calm them down.

Maybe that has not happened yet, but it is in the back of my head while scrolling down page zero on the random image bulletin board known as “/b/” on 4chan.org.

4chan is a website where users can post images and comment on 53 topics.

The “random” image board /b/ is notorious for containing taboo thoughts and images. Users of /b/ comment on random images posted, and users post under the pseudonym “anonymous.”

The anonymity fuels users to post anything they would like. ‘Anything’ is often used in excess on /b/, though. ‘Anything’ is taken literally and images of gore, child pornography, fraud, piracy and blasphemous cartoons are frequently posted.

In a fair and balanced report, Fox News called users of 4chan “a bunch of antisocial, foul-mouthed, clever nerds” in the April 2009 article “4Chan: The Rude, Raunchy Underbelly of the Internet.”

4chan does have “global rules” that apply in every board, and each image board has its own set of sub-rules with administrators and monitors available as enforcers.

There are 15 global rules including: abiding by the law of United States, no spamming the website, and warning that no one 18-years-old or younger is allowed on the site.

Global rule three is written regarding /b/, and it gives an idea of the kind of images and users that roam the site.

“Do not post the following outside of /b/: Trolls, flames, racism, off-topic replies, uncalled for catchphrases, macro image replies, indecipherable text (example: “lol u tk him 2da bar|?”), anthropomorphic (“furry”), grotesque (“guro”), or loli/shota pornography,” the rule says.

Does it really reflect a hidden “underbelly of the Internet,” where the users’ wildest thoughts could flow outward on a screen without penalty? An area of the web where taboos do not exist?

The administrators and monitors have the responsibility of bannning users from the website, including themselves, and can ban anyone for any reason.

This leaves the control of /b/’s content to those within the community.

On the surface /b/ is just dark humor on a turf similar to the wild west that has no regulations, and the monitors are sheriffs who take too long to realize what has happened in the town.

This allows users hide within anonymity so they can say and post things with no repercussions.

The threads on page zero are considered the most popular. All pages are in a constant rotation that is determined by what threads have been recently commented on. Users bump a thread to help it reach page zero.

Having anonymity blend with the way this image board works turns threads into a contest of who can post the most obscene thing.

The Internet Protocol addresses of users are displayed only to the administrators, and users are encouraged to report if someone is breaking the rules.

4chan states that it values the privacy of its users, and will “not make private information such as IP addresses available to others, except to comply with court orders or to cooperate with law enforcement agencies when appropriate.”

Aside from the internet folklore that says /b/ is where the sinners sin, I do believe /b/ is a driving force in helping the Internet sub-culture bleed into the pop-culture of our society.

“Anonymous,” the hacktivist collective that has been linked to several distributed denial-of-service attacks online and was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people in 2012, started as a meme on /b/.

4chan is an extreme cross section of personalities and ideas, but when memes on 4chan become tame it turns into a “pop-internet” culture.

Reddit, 9gag and icanhascheezburger have capitalized on the /b/ sub-culture by developing a more “safe for work” policy, and these sites have also facilitated the growth of memes to a broader audience.

It is important to notice what is on the Internet, and how it reflects what people are really interested in.

However, /b/ users should practice caution because of the taboo content of the image board.

No one wants a knee pressed against their spine while being demanded to stop resisting.

Karo Chakhlasyan, a senior communications major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times. He can be reached by email at karo.chakhlasyan@laverne.edu.

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