You may have heard of 4chan – it’s generally considered the worst place on the internet. We have always advised parents of teens that the site is not a safe or friendly place. Back in 2013 we wrote the following in a post titled “Is 4chan Safe for Teens”:
“4chan is an image board social media forum, and home to some of the worst behavior and shocking photos on the internet… it’s almost impossible to browse 4chan without running into content or opinions that most parents would find not only unsafe, but downright shocking. Fox News describes 4chan users as “a bunch of antisocial, foul-mouthed, clever nerds.”
The founder of 4chan, Chris Poole, is a well-known proponent of free speech, and has avoided almost all censorship on some segments of 4chan, except when things posted on the network are clearly illegal.
In an article about 4chan at Slate this weekend, the author offers the opinion that the folks at the head of 4chan bear responsibility for bad behavior there.
“4chan’s critics should look to the only person who has total control over the site itself: founder and operator Christopher “moot” Poole.”
We disagree. We are very much in favor of free speech, but there’s another issue at work here. The Slate author seems to think that no one is holding Poole responsible, but there is a group that is very much against Poole at the moment – 4chan’s users who are also free speech zealots. Consider the fact that earlier this month, in the wake of the first round of leaks of nude celeb photos, Poole and 4chan changed policies regarding posting of stolen or otherwise misappropriated content.
This group of very vocal users view 4chan’s caving on copyright laws as a betrayal, and has taken action. They have started a new site called 8chan, or Infinity Chan (edit in response to comment below – 8chan has been around since fall 2013, but has recently risen in popularity) that has even more lax rules than 4chan itself does.
For example, on 4chan the following are not permitted, except in the sub-forum /b/:
“You will not post any of the following outside of /b/: Trolls, flames, racism, off-topic replies, uncalled for catchphrases, macro image replies, indecipherable text, anthropomorphic (“furry”) or grotesque (“guro”) images… You will not post or request personal information (“dox”) or calls to invasion (“raids”).”
No such rules exist on 8chan. Anything that is legal in the U.S. is permitted, no matter how distasteful.
We still believe that 4chan, and now 8chan, are not appropriate for teens. We maintain, however, that holding the leaders of these forums responsible for users’ reprehensible behavior is wasted energy. There will always be a forum for unpopular views and content, as confirmed by the fact that 8chan popped up as quickly as it did.
As a parent, it’s up to you to stay on top of what your kids are doing online. Some places are safe and wholesome and some are not. Viewer, and parent, beware.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.