4chan Reemphasizes, Steps Up Enforcement On Its Actual Rules

The anarchic imageboard 4chan might just be starting to try and clean up its act.

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(UPDATE) 4chan's site founder Chris Poole sent us an email clarifying his news post. He writes:

FYI, 4chan has had rules since its inception, and the "dox" rule you cited has been on the books for 7 full years. The majority of the rules on that page have been there for about as long, and new boards always receive rules when introduced. The only exception has been the Random board, with it's "no rules" policy, but the exception for the Global Rules and "rules also don't apply to mods" has always been there.

There haven't been any recent additions or changes to the rules -- the news post simply sought to clarify /why/ we have the rules we do (to facilitate on-topic posting and ensure off-topic content doesn't push on-topic content off the site), and why enforcement seems to have stepped up (because we have better moderation tools).

The post has been updated to reflect the clarification.

(Original post) The anarchic imageboard 4chan might just be starting to try and clean up its act. The website that lets users post anonymously has spawned both beloved internet memes like lolcats and reviled internet trolls (often with the latter responsible for the former) has set out to remind its users that other sections of the site do have guidelines.

On Wednesday, site founder Christopher Poole (aka moot) clarified rules mostly regarding on-topic discussion. While 4chan's most notorious board is its miscellaneous, all-purpose /b/ section, it also provides around 60 other sections for topics ranging from politics to music, which normally have their own specialized subset of rules. Previously, /b/ had a brief edict that users could not post anything that violates United States law, and that was about the only regulation. Poole explains (sfw):

So here we are, trying to cram significantly more people into a marginally expanded site, with what is essentially the same software and roughly the same number of volunteers. It's not surprising that this overcrowding has led to quarrels amongst users and disagreements with the staff. We're simply struggling to accommodate more users than ever, who want to discuss more topics, coupled with strong opinions regarding what does and doesn't belong.

The purpose of 4chan's Rules page is to answer that question—what does and doesn't belong. If you look through the rules (as I'm sure you all have), I think you'll find them to be well-intentioned and straightforward. The majority seek to clarify what constitutes "on-topic" posting, and their purpose is not to stifle discussion, but to facilitate it. They're also written to be clearly understood by both the users and moderators, to ensure both compliance and consistency in their enforcement.

Doxxing and raiding are probably just below lolcats on the list of things that 4chan is (in)famous for, although the site has long had a rule prohibiting it ("The posting or requesting of personal information...or calls to invasion...is prohibited."). They are among the primary tactics used by Anonymous, the amorphous, leaderless collective that was hatched in /b/ and has attacked everything from Scientology to Sarah Palin.

While the  rules are not actually new but have instead been made clearer, GigaOm speculates that 4chan's most ardent users will not take kindly to the new regulations.

It’s unlikely that the attempt to clean up 4Chan will be quietly accepted — one need only look at the hubbub surrounding the new mod rules at Reddit’s /r/atheism earlier this summer to know that anonymous networks can get very irate very quickly. But 4Chan’s isolationist attitude and harassing culture has prevented the website from taking off in the way that Reddit has in the last year.

Particularly amusing is the new ban log, which publicly displays new bans and the reasoning behind them. The highly influential website turns 10 in a little over a week.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.