This made me smile this morning. 4chan (for those of you sane enough to avoid it) is the internet cess-pit. All those mind searing images? those terrifying memes? They come from 4chan (and a few similar sites).
I've been wondering how long before it was mentioned by name in the main stream news for a while. Whats interesting is that obliquely 4chan and its ilk are mentioned often - normally confused with the 'terrorist group' anonymous. This is explicitly wrong. Anonymous is not a group - it is the outward affect of the anarchy of 4chan and co. These are the places that have no rules and upon which anything goes.
The reason anonymous isn't a terrorist group is that it is not organised, Project Chanology was a meme. Lots of people thought it would be fun or interesting or agreed - so it happened.
This is the new face of protest: flash memes that spread across the internet in a matter of days and then die or explode. Two other good examples are the circle line pub crawl last year (spread via facebook) and the G20 protests this year (spread via facebook and twitter). These are the early sightings of the net truly showing its power - not just breaking news faster and better but impacting upon the world.
The original version of these phenomena were flash mobs - these were light hearted displays of surreality. They have changed and become a method of demonstration as well as a method of anarchy. Which is the only way to describe a lot of the internet.
Stories like the one on the bbc today are just a way of showing how powerful peoples urges and mob mentality can be and online a mob can be huge (4chan's /b section has several million hits a day and managed to get its founder posted as the Time magazine's number one person in the top 100 as a prank as well as a proper interview).
It's things like this that make it easy to see why so many people want to control the internet. It also makes it pretty clear why they will fail. The music industry tried to stop napster and got winMX and so on - these got shut down and we got bittorrents if these die more dark nets will occur (invite only networks for p2p file sharing). The same is happening more generally with content. A lot of the reactions to this story on the bbc page were "why doesn't every youtube video get checked" and "how can this be allowed to happen". This kind of thinking doesn't work online. The responsibility is for the person to stop things to moderate themselves.
Big brother may be watching you online but can't really stop anything - only the people online can change the internet. This doesn't mean that 4chan will be stopped - but it does mean that people need to take things into their own hands and moderate, mark down and report.
oh and supervise their kids online if they don't want them to see porn.