Anonymous message board briefly took the spotlight during the Roseburg shootings.
4chan is an anonymous message-board website, segmented into specific forums for specific content. Unlike on Reddit, 4chan posters don’t even have usernames; everyone is simply called “Anonymous.”
The site is the origin of many Internet memes (running jokes, catchphrases or recurring images), the most famous of which might be the practice of “Rickrolling” — tricking someone by sending them to a link or having them start watching a video, only to redirect them to photos of singer Rick Astley or the music video for his 1987 song “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
But 4chan has also been linked to more sinister endeavors, including hacking celebrities’ iPhone photos, contributing to an “Internet hate storm” surrounding video-game developer Zoe Quinn, and even the sharing of child pornography. It is also where a man in Port Orchard posted a photo of his murdered girlfriend, writing, “I just wanted to share the pics before they find me.”
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Someone posted on 4chan on Wednesday: “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest.” It was accompanied by a cartoon of a frog (another 4chan meme) holding a gun.
It’s unclear at this point whether the post was actually created by the gunman at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
The message was posted to a forum called /r9k/, whose community shares stories of “beta male” social awkwardness and abhors “normies” (people, particularly men, with more active social lives).
Responses Wednesday night varied. Some asked for more specific details. Many encouraged the potential shooting (“Make us proud,” “Make the normies pay,” or simply, “DO IT”). Some even offered advice on how to carry out a school shooting.
After the Roseburg shooting Thursday, 4chan users returned to the post, commenting in disbelief that a school shooting in the Northwest had actually happened. Some referred to a “beta uprising,” a running joke on /r9k/ about “beta males” taking back society from — or taking revenge on — “alpha males,” feminists and others they blame for their lack of healthy social and sexual relationships.
On a Reddit forum dedicated to discussion of 4chan, a commenter noted that threats of mass shootings show up regularly on 4chan and “the responses in that thread were from people who thought it was the usual fake.”