Research:Online Community Conduct Policies/4Chan

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4Chan is a discussion forum and image/meme sharing site, started in 2003. 4chan posters were instrumental in making or spreading many of the popular memes of the mid-2000s, including “lolocats”, “rickrolling” and videos like “Chocolate Rain”.   The site has been criticized for hosting pornography, images of graphic violence, and overtly racist discussions, and has played a role in online “cybermobbing” and harassment incidents.

Community characteristics[edit]

  • Size of community - In 2010, 8.2 million.[1] In 2012, 22.2 million, according to site founder Christopher Poole.[2]
  • According to the sites’ advertising page,[3] the demographics of 4chan users are as follows:
    • Dominant age group: 18-34
    • Gender breakdown: ~70% male, ~30% female
    • Location: United States (47%), United Kingdom (8%), Canada (6%), Australia (5%), Germany (4%), France (2%), Sweden (2%), Netherlands (2%), Poland (1.5%), Brazil (1.5%)
  • Age of community - 2003 (will be 13 years old in October 2016)

Conduct policies[edit]

See also: 4Chan's Rules

Similar to Reddit, individual boards on the 4chan site have some autonomy over user behaviour, and what can be posted.  However, there are, as of 2016, a set of “global rules” with which all boards must comply.  Most of these rules concern types of banned content, such as personal information (“doxxing”), spam, or pornography, but some problematic content is simply limited to a certain board (e.g. the “/r” board may contain pornography, and the “/b” board allows for behaviour such as racism, trolling, and other activities usually moderated in other communities).

As users of 4Chan enjoy high levels of anonymity, 4Chan lacks some of the "identity-based reputation" frameworks common on other sites. A small percentage (~5%) use tools like "tripcodes" to maintain a persistent identity, but most post under randomized character strings, and are only recognizable through their communication styles and content preferences.

History of policies[edit]

Historically, 4chan has avoided any strong form of content or user behaviour moderation.  This is especially true of of its notorious “b/” image-sharing board, where few if any limits have been placed on posters (the list of “rules” for that board lists “ZOMG - NONE!” as the first rule).  However, in 2014, 4chan was one of the primary outlets of illegally-obtained nude photographs of celebrities. As a result of the controversy, 4Chan updated its policies to include clear procedures for copyright-infringing material, such as personal, unreleased photography.[4] Observers noted an increase of enforcement of rules; however, founder Chris Poole attributed this to an improvement of moderation tools, rather than a change in moderation philosophy.[5] Poole has summarized 4Chan's approach to moderation as, "the power lies in the community to dictate its own standards."[6]


4Chan prioritizes anonymity for its members, and, through rapid "archiving" (older posts are pushed off the board relatively quickly, and cannot be accessed through the site once pushed off), has an "ephemeral" quality in its content.[7] Often, reported content has disappeared by the time it is reviewed or receives media attention. This is used as a justification for the low level of content moderation on the site. However, users can "bump" content, making it stay within the board for a longer period of time. Users have also created separate archive sites to preserve removed content.

The site has volunteer moderators, in addition to users known as "janitors". These groups are responsible for removing illegal content and banning users. Bans from 4Chan are fairly common; however, they are largely targeted at users who spam, or who violate the site's social norms (such as posting high volumes of uninteresting content). Bans are usually for finite periods of time, but can be set for and indefinite period. 4Chan has a public log of a sample of their bans.[8]

Analysis of policy: strengths and weaknesses[edit]




  1. Bilton, Nick. "One on One: Christopher Poole, Founder of 4chan". Bits Blog. New York Times. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  2. Chen, Adrian. "4chan's Moment Is Over Even Though It's More Popular Than Ever". Gawker. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  3. "Advertise - 4chan". Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  4. "Stolen celebrity images prompt policy change at 4Chan - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  5. "4chan Reemphasizes, Steps Up Enforcement On Its Actual Rules". The Wire (in en-US). Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  6. "4chan: The ‘shock post’ site that hosted the private Jennifer Lawrence photos". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  7. Monroy-Hernández, Andrés; Bernstein, Michael S (July 5, 2011). "4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community" (PDF). ICWSM, 2011 proceedings. 
  8. "4chan - Bans". Retrieved 2016-05-23.