Movement Wants To Take Down Site that Distributed Photos of Celebrities

A third packet of intimate photos of celebrities was leaked on the Internet over the weekend. But one case last week caught attention: After a speech in the U.N., actress Emma Watson, who spoke of gender discrimination, was the “victim” of a site claiming that she would be the next to have photos divulged when a “counter” fell to zero. When this happened, however, visitors were redirected to a publicity agency’s page petitioning that the site 4chan, where the celebrities’ photos were distributed, be disconnected.

“Join us to disconnect 4chan and prevent more particular photos from being leaked. None of these women deserved this, and together we can make a change. arrived to 48 million visitors, 7 million shares on Facebook, and 3 million mentions on Twitter in the entire world,” said the page.*

The agency responsible for 4chan, Rantic, had a letter addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, claiming the group was contracted by celebrities to grow the discussion about the leakage of photos. “The leaks of nude celebrities’ photos on the site 4chan in these last two months was an invasion of privacy and also a clear indication that the Internet needs to be censored,” said the letter.*

The site “The Verge” observed the amateurism of the campaign supposedly sponsored by celebrities. Not a single name was mentioned.

But what is the site 4chan, after all?

4chan is a site that groups diverse forums where users publish images. Many of the forums allow or even exist solely in anonymity. Communication by means of images gave origin to many of the so-called “memes” of the Internet: It’s more effective to publish an image that expresses something rather than writing.

The site has moderators that remove content that is clearly illicit, but the quantity of posts is so high that many items remain under the radar and are forgotten, as it’s not easy to retrieve old content. 4chan’s users, even though they aren’t technological experts, know how to divulge content in the Internet. One interesting publication on 4chan is enough to let the entire web know.

In 2006, a North American man published a threat saying that seven bombs in football stadiums would kill 100,000 people. The author, initially anonymous, was identified as Jake Brahm and sentenced to six months in prison. Brahm, however, did not have a single bomb; it was merely a prank.

4chan’s content is known for being low quality. Many images are false, edited and published as a joke — jokes in bad taste, by many standards. In fact, many of the photos of celebrities were also falsified, not surprising to anyone who is familiar with 4chan.

Despite this, or perhaps because of this, 4chan has an enormous following: The site is the 672nd most visited in the world, and the 263rd most visited in the United States, according to Alexa. Ending up with 4chan does not end with this following, nor with the culture that has been created around the site, which is probably the largest and most exclusive culture of the web, and was also the birthplace of the “Anonymous” movement, organizer of protests in and outside of the web.

A new group of moderators has been acting on 4chan recently, alienating many of the users. The result? Part of the audience is migrating to another site, “8chan.” More important still is understanding that, while 4chan gives audience to these leaks, it is not difficult to find audiences in other places on the web. S/He who in fact needs to be punished is s/he who obtained these images. Incidentally, many people who have seen the photos probably have not heard of 4chan.

As Andy Greenberg’s interesting report for the blog of security magazine “Wired” observed, there are other sites, like Anon-IB, that serve as the point of discovery for those who intend to obtain celebrity images. On Anon-IB, participants openly discuss methods to invade accounts; however, as Greenberg reports, the discussions have been transforming into complaints since Apple decided to improve the security of iCloud.

Of course, many other similar places exist on the Internet — some even less well-known. 4chan is the easiest target because of its size, but the generalized interest in this content is not waning despite taking the site off the air.

Immediate solutions like this sometimes sound good, but they don’t resolve the problem and, in this case, would bring a worrying case of censorship. While 4chan has trash, there are valid discussions taking place among its own community; truly interesting content is being shared, and Anonymous has demonstrated the curious capacity of moving thousands of people behind a cause.

*Editor’s Note: The quotations in this article, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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