The mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, has put a spotlight on 4chan, a largely unmoderated site that has been the breeding ground for several tragedies and controversies over the years and appears to have played a role in inspiring Saturday’s attack.
Despite the role it may have played in the horrific events in Buffalo, the platform and its owner have not issued any statement. Links to copies of the graphic shooting video and praise for the gunman continue to pop up around the platform. This lack of action reveals a complicated truth about the internet landscape: An online platform that dismisses outside criticism from users and advertisers can host racist hate speech and facilitate user radicalization with few consequences.
In a 180-page document that is believed to be authored by the alleged murder suspect, he said he began visiting the online forum site 4chan in 2020, drawing inspiration from racist and hateful threads and weapons forums. He also appears to have hinted at his plans on 4chan, according to an online diary that has been attributed to the suspect.
4chan did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CNN Business. A direct inquiry sent to 4chan’s current owner, Hiroyuki Nishimura, also went unanswered. The site — a barebones, forum-based site reminiscent of the early internet where users post anonymously — hosts a variety of communities where hate speech is tolerated or celebrated. While major platforms like Facebook and Twitter have multi-faceted terms of service agreements for users that lay out prohibited behavior like hate speech, harassment, racist speech, and more, 4chan has bucked the trend of social platforms adopting increasingly robust content moderation policies.
Instead, it exists outside of mainstream social media norms. It’s a place where some users discuss everyday news about anime and video games, but it is also a forum where damaging content that would not be allowed on more mainstream social media platforms has flourished. It is where nude photos of female celebrities have previously been leaked and disseminated, where racism and anti-semitism is cheered, and where QAnon, the conspiracy cult, originated