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About the Chans and Their Evolution: 2chan, 4chan, 8chan, 8kun

Mar 1, 2021

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“Welcome to 8Kun. Speak freely, legally.” Free speech is great, so what’s the big deal? Add anonymity, light-to-no moderation, and a gamified culture of edginess to a platform that tends to fly under the radar, and you end up with a ever-evolving, disorderly hang out spot where users do things “for the LOLs” and sometimes to intentionally create chaos and cause damage.

If your brand is mentioned on one of the “chans,” it’s never good, so you’ll want to know what’s going on there. Just be aware. It’s not an easy browse, which is why Yonder monitors emerging narratives there to support the scenario planning work of brand teams.

What is it? 

The chans (2chan, 4chan, 8chan, and now 8kun) are anonymous image boards for extremely “online” people, trolls, edgelords, and extremists. These boards serve as a place to anonymously amplify users’ otherwise muted voices by way of crowd-sourcing.  Collective goals include enacting political or societal change, instructing ideological shifts (“red-pilling”), influencing public discourse, and exacting revenge on perceived threats to their community.  But sometimes it’s just for the LOLs. 

The chans are continuously forced to evolve because of their commitment to unmoderated freedom of speech without regard for potential individual and societal harm. This mission (or more accurately non-mission) encourages increasingly toxic and often illegal content, resulting in inevitable ejection of the most extreme users (“deplatforming”), who then spawn out to a new channel, with a smaller, but more radicalized user base in each evolution.  8kun may be the latest and currently most problematic model of the chan series, but it will certainly not be the last.

4what? 8who? What’s the scoop on the most active chans?

4chan has a strong focus on trolling, meme-creation, and pranking, via a Revenge of the Nerds-style “us-versus-them” cooperative.  Although this community of the downtrodden getting retribution on the popular “Chad’s and Stacy’s” of the world may seem fairly innocuous, the language on 4chan is often deeply racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic.  Jockeying for the identity of “alpha” versus “beta” runs rampant, and any user deemed to be kind or sympathetic (“simping”) is aggressively attacked with slurs. Some 4chan boards foster alt-right political discussions and become breeding grounds for QAnon conspiracies. Most famous for Gamergate, 4chan is often a homebase where attacks against brands associated with progressive values are planned, developed, and tested before they are spread to more mainstream platforms.

8chan/8kun developed into more of an alt-tech, free speech-driven platform, but it regularly allows deeply troubling/violent/illegal material to remain without moderation. For that reason it’s been booted from server company to server company.  Its current provider is VanwaTech (aka OrcaTech), and after a brief disruption, a Russian-based company known only as ddos-guard[.]net swooped in to provide DDoS protection services. It has also been a repository for hacking dump materials, like the Podesta email that users developed into the hypothetical narrative that would become Pizzagate

Watch our webinar on fringe channels and how brand-damaging narratives emerge there.

OMG. Who is into this? 

4chan is primarily made up of internet and fringe trolls. 8chan/8kun grew from the people who left 4chan looking for something with even less moderation, and so it largely serves far-right extremists and White supremacists, including some that promote violence, or share child pornography.

How fast is it growing? 

4chan and 8chan saw a large surge in activity once Parler was taken off line, with posts more than doubling.  Growth has now tapered back to a steady medium.  Increases in chan activity are most often due to the de-platforming of mainstream actors.

Why should your brand care? 

Chan trolls are savvy.  They recognize that the best leverage they have is to shape the bottom lines of significant companies.  They are tuned in to which brands represent which cultural touchstones.  Then, with all that chan-fed nihilism as fuel, these actors attack in a highly chaotic way that can be scary and not easy to combat.   

When we look at disinformation campaigns that target brands, 4chan has been especially impactful.  Most corporations aren’t clocking the chans, so users can  plan and workshop attacks with impunity, then launch into more mainstream platforms with ease.  Once a chan-developed campaign becomes news, it’s difficult to track it back to the source. People then unwittingly share information that isn’t fact-checked but comes off as fact, and you’ve got a real problem.

Our unique chan-understanding, or “underchanding”:

Yonder has been paying attention and collecting data from the chans for years. That wealth and depth of knowledge is our secret sauce, and it allows us to analyze and understand what’s happening on these boards faster than anyone else.  Plus, our ability to hold that data set in correlation to other data sets allows us to track how narratives leap from one platform to another, assess impact, and give brands the heads up when something negative is heading their way.  Again, if you’re being mentioned in the chans, it’s never good. 

The chans may continue to evolve in a pretty dark corner of the internet, but no worries – Yonder can shine little sunlight on them for you.