Following the massive leak of nude celebrity photos last week, Christopher “Moot” Poole, the creator of 4chan, has adopted a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown policy. Under this policy, the site will remove any content that is a “bona fide infringement” under the law. In addition, the site will also notify the poster of the removal, and multiple offenses will outright ban the poster indefinitely. If someone believes their post has been improperly taken down, there is also a counter-notice system in place to fight the strike. The new policy can be seen here.
Before this new policy was put in place, 4chan (where the nude photos were originally posted) mostly relied on the systematic pruning of threads to avoid any problems caused by questionable or illegal content being posted. Threads would expire and be pruned so quickly that the content wouldn’t be on the site for more than a few hours. But the celebrity nude leak was given such a news spotlight that relying on the old ways clearly wasn’t going to cut it. Adopting a more staunch protocol for dealing with these sort of situations would be necessary to avoid legal issues down the road.
A concern many may have regarding this change in policy is whether 4chan, and to some extent the internet as a whole, will remain the open ground for discussion and posting that it has always been, or if the “Wild West Web” will come to an end. While this is up for debate, likely this policy won’t actually change anything on 4chan. As mentioned above, 4chan often relies on its quick and organic removal of content via thread expiration. So even if someone were to leak a naked photo or post someones private information, by the time the offended party would find out, make the claim, identify the content, give their contact information, sign the electronic signature, etc., the content itself would be long gone. The policy is more than anything a way for Moot, the creator of 4chan, to save face without having to do away with the manner the site has operated all these years.
4chan, which was created in 2003, is known for its “nothing is off limits” culture. The site is completely anonymous (except for staff members) and is often in the media for its provoking and unmoderated discussions. Unlike Reddit, where the most popular comments are the first you see, with 4chan comments appear in the order they are posted and as a result, all opinions are on an equal platform.