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  • Tom Green: That's a 4chan thing.

  • These kids on the Internet, they have this group of kids

  • and they like to say funny words

  • like "barrel roll."

  • It's a video game move from "Star Fox."

  • "Star Fox 20"? (Assistant: "Star Fox 64.")

  • Tom Green: Yeah. And they've been dogging me for a year.

  • I got to tell you, it's driving me nuts, actually.

  • Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I scream,

  • "4chan!"

  • Christopher Poole: When I was 15,

  • I found this website called Futaba Channel.

  • And it was a Japanese forum and imageboard.

  • That format of forum, at that time,

  • was not well-known outside of Japan.

  • And so what I did is I took it, I translated it into English,

  • and I stuck it up for my friends to use.

  • Now, six and a half years later,

  • over seven million people are using it,

  • contributing over 700,000 posts per day.

  • And we've gone from one board

  • to 48 boards.

  • This is what it looks like.

  • So, what's unique about the site

  • is that it's anonymous,

  • and it has no memory.

  • There's no archive, there are no barriers, there's no registration.

  • These things that we're used to with forums

  • don't exist on 4chan.

  • And that's led to this

  • discussion that's completely raw, completely unfiltered.

  • What the site's known for,

  • because it has this environment,

  • is it's fostered the creation of a lot of

  • Internet phenomena, viral videos and whatnot, known as "memes."

  • Two of the largest memes that have come out of this site

  • some of you might be familiar with are these LOLcats --

  • just silly pictures of cats with text.

  • And this resonates with millions of people, apparently,

  • because there are tens of thousands of these,

  • and there is a whole blogging empire now

  • dedicated to pictures like these.

  • And Rick Astley's kind of rebirth

  • these past two years ...

  • Rickroll was this bait and switch,

  • really simple, classic bait and switch.

  • Somebody says they're linking to something interesting,

  • and you get an '80s pop song. That's all it was.

  • And it got big enough to the point where

  • there was a float last year at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade,

  • and Rick Astley pops out, and rickrolls

  • millions of people on television.

  • (Laughter)

  • There are thousands of memes that come out of the site.

  • There are a handful that have escaped into the mainstream,

  • the ones I've just shown you,

  • but every day, every month,

  • people are producing thousands of these.

  • So does a site like this have rules?

  • We do; they're the codified rules that I've come up with,

  • which are more-or-less ignored by the community.

  • And so they've come up with their own set of rules,

  • the "Rules of the Internet."

  • And so there are three that I want to show you specifically.

  • Rule one is you don't talk about /b/.

  • Two is you do not talk about /b/.

  • And this one's kind of interesting:

  • "If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions."

  • (Laughter)

  • And I will spare you that slide.

  • I assure you, it is very true.

  • /b/ is the first board we started with,

  • and it is, in many ways,

  • the beating heart of the website.

  • It is where a third of all the traffic is going.

  • And /b/ is known for,

  • more than anything,

  • not just the memes they've created, but the exploits.

  • And Chris just touched on one of those a second ago,

  • and that was the Time 100 poll.

  • So somebody at Time, at the magazine,

  • thought it would be fun to nominate me

  • for this thing they did last year.

  • And so they placed me on it,

  • and the Internet got wind of it. My community

  • decided they wanted me to win it.

  • I didn't instruct them to do it; they just decided that that's what they wanted.

  • And so, you know, 390 percent approval rating ain't so bad.

  • (Laughter)

  • So they broke that poll.

  • And I ended up on top.

  • I ended up at this really fancy party.

  • But that's not what's interesting about this.

  • It's that they weren't putting me at the top of this list;

  • they were actually --

  • it got so sophisticated to the point where they gamed

  • all of the top 21 places

  • to spell "mARBLECAKE. ALSO, THE GAME."

  • (Laughter)

  • The amount of time and effort that went into that

  • is absolutely incredible.

  • And "marble cake" is significant because

  • it is the channel that this group called Anonymous organized.

  • Anonymous is this group of people

  • that protested, very famously,

  • Scientology.

  • The story is,

  • Scientology had this embarrassing video of Tom Cruise. It went up online.

  • They got it taken offline and managed to piss off part of the Internet.

  • And so these people, over 7,000 people,

  • less than one month later,

  • organized in a hundred cities around the globe and --

  • this is L.A. --

  • protested the Church of Scientology,

  • and they have continued to do so,

  • now, two full years after the fact.

  • They are still protesting.

  • (Laughter)

  • So we've got this activist group that's this grassroots group

  • that's come out of the site.

  • And last, I'm going to show you the example,

  • the story of Dusty the cat.

  • Dusty is the name that we've given to this cat.

  • This young man

  • posted a video

  • of him abusing his cat on YouTube.

  • And, you know, this didn't sit well with people,

  • and so there was this outpouring of support

  • for people to do something about this.

  • So what they did is they -- I mean, they put CSI to shame here --

  • the Internet detectives came out.

  • They matched, they found his MySpace.

  • They took the YouTube video and they mashed everything in the video.

  • Within 24 hours,

  • they had his name,

  • and within 48 hours, he was arrested.

  • (Applause)

  • And so, what I think is really intriguing

  • about a community like 4chan

  • is just that it's this open place.

  • As I said, it's raw, it's unfiltered.

  • And sites like it are kind of

  • going the way of the dinosaur right now.

  • They're endangered because we're moving

  • towards social networking.

  • We're moving towards persistent identity.

  • We're moving towards,

  • you know, a lack of privacy, really.

  • We're sacrificing a lot of that, and I think in doing so,

  • moving towards those things, we're losing something valuable.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • Chris Anderson: Thank you.

  • Got a couple questions for you.

  • But if I ask them, is the TED website going to go down?

  • CP: You're lucky that this is not

  • being streamed to them live right now.

  • CA: Well, you never know. Some of them --

  • we've got people in 75 countries out there watching.

  • Don't tell.

  • But seriously,

  • this issue on anonymity is --

  • I mean, you made the case there.

  • But anonymity basically allows people to say anything,

  • all the rules gone.

  • You've had to wrestle with issues like child pornography.

  • And I'm just curious whether you

  • sometimes lie awake in the night

  • worrying that you've opened Pandora's box.

  • CP: Yes and no.

  • I mean, for as much good

  • that kind of comes out of this environment,

  • there is plenty of bad.

  • There are plenty of downsides.

  • But I think that the greater good

  • is being served here by just allowing people --

  • there are very few places, now, where you can go

  • and not have identity, to be completely anonymous

  • and say whatever you'd like.

  • And saying whatever you like, I think, is powerful.

  • Doing whatever you like is now crossing a line.

  • But I think it's important to have these places.

  • When I get emails, people say, "Thank you for giving me this place,

  • this outlet, where I can come after work

  • and be myself."

  • CA: But words, saying things,

  • you know, can be constructive; it can be really damaging.

  • And if you cut the link between what is said

  • and any attribution back to you,

  • I mean, surely there are huge risks with that.

  • CP: There are, certainly.

  • But --

  • CA: Tell me about what -- I mean, I think you asked the board

  • what you might say at TED, right?

  • CP: Yeah, I posted a thread

  • on Sunday.

  • And within 24 hours,

  • it had over 12,000 responses.

  • And the thing is,

  • I didn't make it into that presentation

  • because I can't read to you anything that they said, more or less.

  • (Laughter)

  • 99 percent of it is just,

  • would have been, you know, bleeped out.

  • But there were some good things that came out of that too.

  • (Laughter)

  • Love and peace were mentioned.

  • CA: Love and peace were mentioned,

  • kind of with quote marks around them, right?

  • CP: Cats and dogs were mentioned too.

  • CA: And that content is all off the board now.

  • Right, it's gone? Or is it still up there?

  • CP: I stuck that thread so it lasted a few days.

  • It went up to about 16,000 posts,

  • and now it has been taken off.

  • CA: Okay, well.

  • Now, I'm not sure I would have necessarily recommended

  • everyone at TED to go and check it out anyway.

  • Chris, you yourself? I mean, you're a figure of some intrigue.

  • You've got this surprising

  • semi-underground influence,

  • but it's not making you a lot of money, yet.

  • What's the commercial picture here?

  • CP: The commercial picture is that there really isn't

  • much of one, I guess.

  • The site has adult content on it.

  • I mean, obviously, it's got some very offensive, obscene content on it,

  • just in terms of language alone.

  • And when you've got that, you've pretty much sacrificed

  • any hope of making lots of money.

  • CA: But you still live at home, right?

  • CP: I actually moved out recently.

  • CA: That's very cool.

  • (Applause)

  • CP: I got out of Mom's, and I'm back in school right now.

  • CA: But what conversations did you or do you

  • have with your mother about 4chan?

  • CP: At first, very kind of pained,

  • awkward conversations.

  • The content is not dinner table conversation in the least.

  • But my parents -- I think part of why

  • they kind of are able to appreciate it

  • is because they don't understand it.

  • (Laughter)

  • CA: And they were probably pleased to see you

  • on top of the Time poll.

  • CP: Yeah. They still didn't know what to think of that though.

  • (Laughter)

  • CA: And so, in 10 years' time,

  • what do you picture yourself doing?

  • CP: That's a good question.

  • As I said, I just went back to school,

  • and I am considering

  • majoring in urban studies

  • and then going on to urban planning,

  • kind of taking whatever I've learned from online communities

  • and trying to adapt that

  • to a physical community.

  • CA: Chris, thank you. Absolutely fascinating. Thank you for coming to TED.