Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trolls: Activists for the 21st Century?

Over the last week "trolls" from the 4chan boards have staged multiple highly-coordinated web attacks on the likes of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Tea Party. Official websites for both the MPAA and the RIAA were brought down by massive DDoS attacks, and was flooded with new users who spammed the photo section with images like this exceedingly NSFW photoshopped image of Sarah Palin.

The 4chan community is notorious for their online exploits, including inventing Lolcatshacking the 2009 TIME 100 list, and bringing down stock in Apple with premature rumours of Steve Jobs' demise. The website is founded on the ideas of freedom of expression and anonymity, and as a result its users' content and actions are often unidentified and shamelessly perverse. In a recent trend 4chan users have committed acts of social-justice minded vigilantism, including tracking down animal abusers. The latest attacks on the MPAA, RIAA, and Tea Party are motivated by each organizations actions against the public and general assholery.

The actions of the 4chan board are a modern form of mob justice, but increasingly they have become a form of organized and militant protest. Their attacks are hugely powerful, fueled by internet users from across the globe united in their hostility towards heartless corporations, political hate-mongers, and common standards of decency. Is this a new form of political activism for the 21st century? A site for unrestricted international outcry against any and all forms of douchery? Or is this just meaningless trolling, plain and simple? Is there a difference? Time will tell, but either way the 4chan boards have made a name for themselves by displaying what can be achieved via the internet, both for ill and for good.

For further reading check out The Atlantic for some great recommendations on trolls, hackers, nerds, etc. Weeks ten and eleven in particular are relevant to this post.


  1. I considered deleting the above comment, maybe labeling it as spam, but it amused me enough that I felt I should share. More words of wisdom from the internet

  2. 4chan is meaningless nowadays, its a bunch of high school kids now.
    Anonymous has moved beyond juvenile image-boards into a global collective.
    We are anonymous.
    We are legion.
    We do not forgive.
    We do not forget.