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4chan and the dark side of the Internet

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A message posted on a website called 4chan caused police to close a high school in the Issaquah School District while they tried to find the source who threatened to kill students at Skyline High School.

Skyline is open today, even though authorities don’t know who posted the threat. The message was traced to a proxy computer server in Sweden. A proxy server, which is fairly easy to access, is often used to conceal a user’s IP address while browsing the Web or using other Internet services

In a letter sent to Skyline parents, the school said they felt confident in reopening the school. “Although we can never guarantee with 100 percent certainty that our school will be safe.”

Police think the person responsible for the threat was either a past or current student at Skyline.

Nearby Eastside Catholic High School was closed Friday. A school leader says they cancelled classes to perform a security assessment on their campus. Friday night’s football game was moved to Saturday.

While most people are now familiar with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the site where the threat was initially posted is not as well known.

4chan was once described as “a message-board whose lunatic, juvenile community is at once brilliant, ridiculous and alarming.”

It’s an anonymous Internet forum known for its pranks, its hacking, and maybe their most well-known stunt, “Rickrolling.”

Rickrolling came from an earlier prank from 4chan known as duckrolling. In that case, a link to a picture or news item would instead lead to a site containing an edited picture of a duck with wheels. The user who clicked was “duckrolled.”

In 2007, 4chan pulled off a huge prank. A link to the Rick Astley video was claimed to be a mirror of the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV. Rickrolling was born and a year later it had spread beyond 4chan to the rest of the Internet.

AnimeIn 2003, Christopher Poole started 4chan, with the intention of making it an online forum to discuss Japanese comics and anime.

He was just 15-years-old then. 4chan has heavily-trafficked image boards, where members congregate to chat and swap photos and images.

The website is split into dozens of message boards from fashion, nature and guns to pornography and paranormal.

The anarchist group Anonymous got its start on 4chan.

One particularly well-known section of 4chan is called “b” which is a rowdy back channel filled with obscene images and profanity-riddled messages.

Content on 4chan can range from odd and not safe for work to violent and threatening.

People on the site are generally young, in their 20s, and they’ve been known to verbally attack anyone who criticizes the 4chan community.

Unlike most social sites, 4chan does not have a registration system, which means anyone can post anything anonymously.

Any name can be used when posting, even one that has been previously adopted by someone else.

The death threat message against Skyline High School was re-posted to Reddit .

Reddit is a social news aggregator where the users do have to register before they can submit content, in the form of either a link or a text “self” post.

Other users then vote the post up or down. Popular stories and posts stay on the site’s front page.

Reddit has been getting more well-known since President Obama recently participated in an AMA “Ask Me Anything” on the website. AMA is a feature that allows a real-time dialogue between a person of note and the people on Reddit.


Photo courtesy The Japan Times. Characters from “Gurren Lagann” are among those featured in a Gainax exhibition at the International Manga Museum.

Related podcast: 140 Seconds on Social Media

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