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4chan's clover logo with leaves that symbolize not luck nor love, but a bunch of asses coalescing into one.
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You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
—Obi Wan Kenobi
Any community that gets its laughs by pretending to be idiots will eventually be flooded by actual idiots who mistakenly believe they are in good company.
DarkShikari's Theorem
[A] message-board whose lunatic, juvenile community is at once brilliant, ridiculous and alarming.
—Sean Michaels, The Guardian[1] is an imageboard modeled on the popular Japanese imageboard 2chan (Futaba ChannelWikipedia) initially intended for anime discussion. However, its anonymous and ephemeral nature soon made it into a chaotic and influential hub of Internet culture that has produced innumerable memes, pranks, raids, and controversies. 4chan created the Anonymous meme, spread the shitfest known as Gamergate, enabled the alt-right movement, and aided numerous other right-wing troll campaigns.


In April 2019, 4chan received 69 million views (rank 482 globally) according to SimilarWeb[2] and 63 million (rank 1055) according to Alexa.[3] Google Trends shows decreasing searches for "4chan" since 2009 or so but increasing searches for "pol" and "4chan pol".[4]


Christopher PooleWikipedia (aka "moot") founded 4chan in 2003.[5] Citing stress from Gamergate,[6] Poole stepped down as site admin on January 26, 2015,[7] and was hired by Google in 2016.[8] A team of volunteers assumed control of the site until September 21, 2015, when 2channel founder Hiroyuki NishimuraWikipedia (aka "gookmoot" or "mootwo") purchased 4chan.[9] In October 2016, Hiroyuki reported that 4chan was facing ongoing financial difficulties, given that its advertising revenue was unable to offset the significant costs of operation.[10] On November 17 2018, Hiroyuki announced that he would move the boards considered "Safe for Work" to, effectively splitting the site in two.[11]

Notable events[edit]

Throughout its history, 4chan has attracted controversy and media attention. Some of the more notable events include:

  • Starting in late 2005 and lasting well into July 2006, readers of /b/ began performing "raids" on the online game Habbo HotelWikipedia in an attempt to disrupt and annoy other users. Participants of the raids would join the game and create a player avatar depicting a black man with a large afro in a gray suit (a design known as the "nigra"). They would proceed to block in-game entrances to various features (such as swimming pools, which they said were "closed due to AIDS"), crowd rooms, and even arrange themselves in swastika formations. Any raiders who were banned would then accuse the game's moderation team of banning them due to their avatar's race.[12] These raids would set the tone for future activities.
  • In October 2006, Jake Brahm posted numerous bomb threats against the NFL on 4chan, provoking tightened security at games. Brahm then came forward and said he did not intend for the posts to be taken seriously. He was taken into custody and was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by six months under house arrest and a $26,000 restitution payment in 2008.[13]
  • From December 2006 to January 2007, 4chan organized DDoS attacks and prank calls on Hal Turner's radio show, causing him to owe his internet providers thousands of dollars. Turner then unsuccessfully sued 4chan.[14] It's interesting to note how 4chan users at this time were organizing against white supremacists.
  • Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV ran an infamous story on 4chan in July 2007, delivered in a typical sensationalist fashion and complete with non-sequitur footage of a van exploding.[15]
  • In September 2007, a high school student posted images of himself with alleged pipe bombs to 4chan, claiming he would blow up his school. 4chan users tracked him down and contacted the police; he was arrested, and it was discovered the bombs were in fact toys.[16]
  • In December 2007, a man was arrested after making posts on 4chan claiming he was planning a killing spree. He died before proceedings took place.[17]
  • 4chan posters were among those associated with the "Project Chanology" campaign against the Church of Scientology.
  • In late 2008, a /b/ user hacked Sarah Palin's private email account following criticism of her alleged use of private accounts to conduct government work. The hacker posted her password on /b/ and sent screenshots of emails to WikiLeaks. After too many people logged into her account, it was automatically suspended by Yahoo!. The FBI and Secret Service then conducted a brief investigation into the hacking.[18]
  • In February 2009, a 4chan poster threatened to commit a school shooting in Sweden. The school was evacuated, and 4chan posters helped police track the poster down. He would later claim the post was a joke, and was not charged due to lack of evidence.[19]
  • In November 2010, a man was arrested for posting child pornography and death threats on 4chan.[20]
  • In January 2011, a man was sentenced to 45 days in prison for cyberbullying people on 4chan.[21]
  • In February 2011, a Marine was arrested for downloading child pornography from 4chan.[22]
  • Another man was arrested for downloading child pornography from 4chan in April 2011.[23]
  • In May 2011, a man was arrested for selling counterfeit coupons through 4chan.[24]
  • In June 2011, a teenage boy who posted child pornography on 4chan was arrested.[25]
  • In February 2012, a man was arrested for making Facebook posts claiming to possess child pornography. He told police he had downloaded the pornography from /b/.[26]
  • In August 2012, 4chan users flooded a poll for the name of the new Mountain Dew flavor, submitting names such as "Granny Gushers" and "Hitler Did Nothing Wrong".[27]
  • In November 2013, a student at the University of Guelph calling himself "Steven" posted his intent to commit suicide on /b/, and invited readers to watch him perform the act on a livestream as a way to "give back to the community". He was rescued by emergency workers after setting his dorm room on fire as part of the attempt, and would later plead guilty to arson charges. [28]
  • In January 2014, Facebook posts made by a man threatening to bomb his old school were posted to 4chan. 4chan posters tracked the man down and contacted police, who had already arrested him.[29]
  • In August 2014, a security compromise at iCloud resulted in the release of several nude images of female celebrities that were initially posted to 4chan. This prompted a change of policy, allowing copyright owners of images to request their removal from 4chan and the banning of the users who had posted them.[30]
  • Also in August 2014, the Gamergate controversy began on boards such as /b/, /r9k/, and /v/.
  • In November 2014, a man in Washington strangled a woman to death and posted images of her corpse to 4chan. He surrendered to police the same day.[31]
  • In 2015 and 2016, users of 4chan's /pol/ board and various 8chan boards became known for their support of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, presumably due to their mutual appreciation of far-right politics and juvenile, incendiary behavior. Users on both sites organized numerous cyberbullying attacks on Trump's opponents and their supporters, mostly through Twitter. Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Anti-Defamation League acknowledged the existence of these pro-Trump trolls and labeled the Pepe meme as a hate symbol.[32] This event was acknowledged by more mainstream Trump supporters, many of whom adopted the Pepe meme themselves. For their part, the ADL redacted their statements and announced they would be working with the cartoonist behind Pepe to create more positive depictions of him.[33] This acknowledgment by the political mainstream seems to have gotten to the heads of many /pol/ users, with many believing they are directly responsible for Trump's success with "meme magic", and that they are in turn being directed by the ancient Egyptian god Kek.[34]
  • In October 2016, Nishimura announced that financial difficulties could result in 4chan shutting down in the near future.[35][36] Oh no, now where will I shitpost and waste my time? If 4chan is lost, how much of value will be lost?
  • During the 2017 Berkeley riots, video surfaced of an Antifa rioter striking a man who was just trying to keep the peace right in the head with a bike lock, resulting in said man needing several stitches. /pol/ responded by tracking this attacker down within a day of the video surfacing and forwarding the evidence to the police.[37]
  • On November 2018, Nishimura announced that the SFW boards would be moved to to bring back advertisers that left due to its site's controversial content. He also announced changes that would allow users to report offensive behavior not covered until the split (most notably, racism outside of /b/ and /pol/).[38]

Imageboards of note[edit]

A protester with a 4chan bag on her head at a 2008 Anonymous "raid"

4chan hosts dozens of imageboards covering several topics, ranging from the original anime board (/a/), sports (/sp/) and even DIY (/diy/). Each board is given a directory designation ranging from one to four characters in length. Users of particular boards are often referred to with board-specific demonyms, often self-deprecating. For instance, readers of the /co/ (Comics and Cartoons) board are called /co/mrades, while posters in the /fa/ (Fashion) board are known as /fa/ggots.

The background color of the boards themselves serves as a method of showing if adult content is permissible to post. Boards with a blue background are meant to be work-safe, although things slip by depending on the attentiveness and tolerance of the mods on duty ("Mods are asleep, post X!" is a common joke). Boards with a beige background allow for the posting of explicit content, as long as it stays on topic with the board's subject matter. Most often, these are the boards meant for sharing erotica, but there are exceptions.

/b/ — Random[edit]

/b/ is the board that most people historically thought of of when they heard "4chan", and used to be most active board of the whole site until /pol/ took that over. It is infamous for having a policy of "anything goes", provided that the posted content is not illegal and does not violate any of the site's universal rules. While child pornography is the biggest no-no, cartoon depictions of sex with children are still common. Tasteless content (i.e. racism, misogyny, extreme gore, extreme porn, animal abuse, and -phobic hate of virtually every prefix under the sun) is the order of the day and is not for the easily offended. Most of the memes and activities that 4chan became known for in its first decade originated in /b/. Readers of the board refer to each other as "/b/tards" or "fags". The usenet group alt.tasteless was an early source of internet trolling, as well as a precursor of sorts to /b/.[39]

/v/ — Video games[edit]

4chan's first and largest board is dedicated to video games, where posters are known as "/v/irgins". For a time, it was the largest, fastest-moving board. This got so bad that some threads would reach the post limit in just a few minutes. This lead to /v/ birthing several child boards, including /vg/ for video game generals, /vp/ for Pokémon, and /vr/ for retro games. Several users actually came together and produced the surprisingly tasteful visual novelWikipedia Katawa Shoujo in 2012, which was based on a one-page concept image from a doujinshiWikipedia manga.[40] /v/ is actually disliked by many 4channers due to it generally acting very bland, as well as the fact that many threads can get derailed rather easily, if they're on topic at all. Additionally, it is infamous for being one of the three spawning grounds of GamerGate, one of the others being…

/pol/ — Politically incorrect[edit]

Perhaps "politically incorrect" is an understatement.

A cesspool of hate, this board was born out of /b/ and the earlier (and now-deleted, but recently resurrected) /news/ (formerly /new/) imageboard, which were both oversaturated with conspiracy nuts and white nationalists. Everybody got tired of their shit and set up /pol/ as a new containment board. (Sound familiar?) That and people had had their fill of anus pictures side by side with news posts. /pol/ is currently the most popular board on the site.[41]

/pol/ is 4chan's political board, filled with white supremacists (some of them overt, some feigning irony for recruitment), neo-Nazis, neoreactionaries, alt-righters, and trolls who just pretend to be white supremacists — though it can be quite difficult to tell the difference. It's so extremist that it honestly makes Metapedia look progressive. Along with Gamergate, "/pol/acks" have also started various redpilling campaigns on Twitter. The general thrust of the movement is promoting a hysterical "war on masculinity", buying ad space to post messages urging transgender people to commit suicide,[42] or just trying to make feminists and other activists look foolish (most notably with the "#EndFathersDay" false flag campaign).[43] The Gamergate hashtag "#NotYourShield", meant to show that Gamergate was not just made up of angry white kids, was also concocted on /pol/.

The consensus among /pol/ is that the establishment is anti-white, feminist/anti-male, Jewish-controlled (Judeo-capitalism-communism), globalist, and Marxist. They'll rally behind anyone who opposes the "degenerate" because they are nazis (a term they borrowed from the Nazis) modern world — without acknowledging that the concept itself was ironically popularized by the Jewish Max Nordau. Since the debate and "redpills" are usually about images and blatant propaganda, anti-rationalism is actively encouraged by the use of nonsensical "memes". That's why if you browse any political thread on 4chan, most lionize people like Julius Evola, "Can't Stump The" Trump,[44] Hitler, Mussolini, or any other far-right/alt-right idols. They're really predictable if you keep in mind that they're mostly white nationalists (not necessarily "white" by their own Hitlerian standards) with a hate boner for equality.[45]

The relationship between /pol/ and the rest of 4chan is tense. Though the board is generally right-leaning with lots of racist and far-right memes, anything partisan, pro-Trump, or otherwise wingnut material gets a hostile reaction outside of /pol/. The other boards only begrudgingly tolerate the existence of /pol/ as a "containment board"—a sort of quarantine environment in which /pol/ is free to shitpost their toxic discourse. (/mlp/ is another such containment board to spare the rest of the website from bronies). Despite this, /pol/ regularly continues to shit up the rest of the site. It's gotten to the point that calling them out causes them to imply that you are a Redditor or are transgender (along with lovingly cherrypicked MtF photos and the funni 41% number). However, its role as a containment board is strong enough to repel the many and repeated calls for its outright deletion for fear that it would overrun the rest of the site. In fact, both of its precursors were deleted only for that exact thing to happen, so one can only assume that the administration does not wish to try it a third time.

When moot cracked down on Gamergate, many of the diehards started flocking to 8chan, which has an identical board that is possibly, somehow, even worse.

/r9k/ — ROBOT9001[edit]

Added in 2008 as a response to a proposal by xkcd for a board where users couldn't make any identical posts to encourage in-depth discussion. In practice, it was incredibly easy to trick the auto-moderation software by merely typing random gibberish at the end of a post or making tiny changes to images, thus leading to the requirement eventually being removed in 2014. However, the originality filter was re-enabled in late 2015, when 4chan came under new ownership. A majority of users said yes when the owner asked if the "robot" should be brought back. Over time, the board's culture developed into a support group where users bonded over mutual social anxieties and ranted about "normies" and women. It was also one of the central communities in associating Pepe the Frog with the alt-right.

/r9k/ is probably most infamous for being the board where it was alleged that the shooter in the Umpqua Community College massacre had posted and was encouraged to act by other posters.[46]

/x/ — Paranormal[edit]

Paranormal woo, and lots of it. Discussions about creepypasta are frequently brought up. Arguably has the dumbest posts on the platform.

/tg/ — Tabletop Games[edit]

The fa/tg/uys. This board encompasses traditional pen and paper games like Dungeons & Dragons, collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, war games like Warhammer 40k, good old board games, and other related paraphernalia. Also elves being raped gently cuddled. It's famous within the community for actually completing a lot of creative projects it comes up with. /tg/ gets shit done. [47] Also has a wiki spin-off named 1d4chan. Some of the material is worthwhile, some isn't. Oh, and like Encyclopedia Dramatica, adblock is advised. Unlike Encyclopedia Dramatica, they have a much more strict policy with images, and they also have a warning in any articles containing promotions (red = NSFW imagery), so one can access it in public without (much) fear.

/k/ — Weapons[edit]

All things related to guns, body armor, military tactics, military strategy, blades, explosives, vehicles, sci-fi-related weapon ideas, experimental technology, or martial combat. This board's users are referred to as /k/ommandos. Recurring themes include /k/ in an alternative universe or timeline (such as "Meanwhile in WH40/k/), OP doing something incredibly awesome/stupid/hilarious (e.g., gassing yourself with chlorine gas just to test a military surplus gas mask), "what if we [insert idea that likely will end in failure]", and something along the lines of "my gun is better than your gun". Interestingly, a fair number of anons on /k/ are opposed to /pol/ (reinforced by the fact that posting /pol/-related material is asking for a ban). Between 2015 and 2016, /k/'s board culture started veering towards a concept known as /ak/, a combination of gun fanaticism with anime otaku culture, with cultural expressions such as "tactical waifus" (anime girls in military outfits; /ak/ culture is the reason why Chinese mobile game Girls Frontline gained an English translation with Japanese voiceovers), or "weeb patches" (putting otaku-themed insignia on guns and tactical gear). The boogaloo boys movement emerged out of /k/.[48]

/d/ — Porn/Alternative[edit]

Technically subtitled "Hentai/Alternative", but this is misleading as both Western and Eastern content was allowed until a restructuring after moot stepped down. All porn flies here so long as it at least reaches the kinkiness of BDSM but isn't as legally problematic as bestiality or pedophilia. Hosts some bizarre porn with dedicated objectophilia threads and fetishes that don't even have names yet. If you ask for regular porn, then you may get B& hammer. /d/'s users are generally referred to as /d/eviants.

/sp/ — Sports[edit]

The obligatory board for all things sports. Due to 4chan's predominantly American userbase, /sp/ is split regarding the many differences between American and European sports. Its members are called /sp/artans.

/mu/ — Music[edit]

Another surprisingly good board lurking on this site. Indulge your inner hipster. See what happens when you post about Neutral Milk Hotel. Members of this board are called /mu/tants.

/wsg/ — Worksafe GIF[edit]

Probably the easiest boards for normies to enjoy. It is here you will find the repository for all the reaction images, GIFs and WebMs used by the rest of the site. /wsg/ is somewhat unique among the various 4chan boards, as its threads are almost entirely entertainment-oriented rather than discussion-centered. The name itself is now pretty out of date, with the advent of WebMs having mostly replaced GIF posting. Some of the more popular topics include YLYL humor, music, dancing, moving art, gaming, feels (GIFs or webMs that evoke intense emotions of all kinds), cheese/beefcake, and memes. Has a tendency to use not only in-house memes but also repost other boards' memes as well. May or may not be a Gateway drug into the rest of 4chan.

Stopped clock moment[edit]

Despite /pol/ being generally wildly supportive of Trump during his election campaign, 4chan has come out firmly against rolling back net neutrality regulations. The rollbacks are being pushed by Trump's nominee Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. Taking the Rick[a w], The Guardian
  2. SimilarWeb[a w]
  3. Rank2Traffic[a w]
  4. Google Trends
  5. Modest Web Site Is Behind a Bevy of Memes, The Wall Street Journal
  6. 4chan’s Overlord Christopher Poole Reveals Why He Walked Away, Rolling Stone
  7. News, 4chan
  8. Google hires creator of notorious 4chan forum, BBC
  9. News, 4chan
  10. 4chan could soon be shutdown as the Internet’s most notorious community goes broke,
  32. Pepe the Frog,
  35. 4chan is facing collapse, but not for the reasons you think. Washington Post, 4 October 2016.
  36. 4chan, a popular hub for offensive posts, shows signs of distress., 5 October 2016.
  37. The Bikelock Fugitive of Berkeley. Internet Historian, YouTube, 10 May 2017.
  39. The Birth of the Internet Troll by Ashley Feinberg (10/30/14 3:36pm) Gizmodo.
  44. It helps that Trump and Paul have the Pepe and Wojack-type reactions you expect from /pol/ comics.
  45. No surprise, then, that 4chan's favorite slur "cuckservative" (virgins obsessed with the threat of another man's vital essence polluting their women) has neo-Victorian origins.
  46. Nick Statt, "4chan thread under federal investigation after Oregon college shooting", The Verge
  48. The Boogaloo Tipping Point: What happens when a meme becomes a terrorist movement? by Dale Beran (July 4, 2020) The Atlantic.
  49. Even 4chan is opposing the Republican plan for net neutrality by Brian Fung (July 12, 2017, at 2:07 PM) The Washington Post.