Increasingly, the majority of people are content to experience the online world through the warm, blue-white glow of Facebook. But beyond the closed ecosystems of giant tech companies, the open web remains populous, anonymous, strange and sometimes, very unpleasant. Meet the man keeping 8chan, the world’s most vile website, alive. 8chan was created by Brennan, is run by Brennan, but is now recently owned by Watkins. Watkins is an American in his 50s who picked up computer skills while in the military. That’s quite a step. The vile mob has come from these places at times. Take 4chan, with members of the hacking group Anonymous started gathering there to plan pranks. By 2009 Fox News was (absurdly) referring to 4chan as the home of “the most powerful people on the Internet.” In 2008, Wired said the “ugly, lo-res site [got] about 500 million pageviews a month.”
It sounds familiar because 2channel is the forebear of all the other “chan” sites. It inspired a similarly-named imageboard called 2chan, that in turn inspired a 15-year old Poole to create 4chan in 2003. And then 4chan gave birth to 8chan. Such is the way of the internet: easily copied ideas and constant, but shallow, innovation. Watkins isn’t the first message board owner to strike open-for-all stance. Reddit’s founders famously held a strong free speech position initially as did 4chan’s Poole. But they all backed off over time. Reddit now bans revenge porn and hate speech. Poole eventually told Rolling Stone that 4chan never had free speech “in the absolutely sense.”. The only free speech Watkins rejects concerns copyright violations, which would result in large fines for the site thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. Over all, Watkins holds a hodgepodge of expediently adopted political ideals in service to one very clear motivation: extracting cash from the internet. [more on Fusion]
With the former owner now working for… Google.