Anarchic internet hangout 4chan sent a little more hate Gawker's way today, launching a denial of service attack against our website, spamming our email accounts and even trying to bother one staffer's spouse. All so we'd stop talking about them.
Angry users of 4chan's notoriously freewheeling /b/ forum inundated Gawker Media's servers with traffic around 1:30 pm Eastern, reprising a similar distributed attack the prior day. The attack slowed down sites across the Gawker Media network, including Gawker.com, where the number of active users on the site fell sharply for approximately an hour before normal service was restored.
Then there were some attempts to harass Gawker editors and writers individually. As the author of the post about yesterday's attack, I got some nasty Facebook messages from angry 4chan users calling me various names and showing me the personal information they'd collected about me. Someone else sent my wife a porn video in a message that repeated "WE ARE LEGION" over and over, a slogan of 4chan offshoot Anonymous. Then, later in the day, someone wrote from the Facebook account of a stranger—a woman living in England judging by her friends—to inform my wife we'd been carrying on a torrid three-month affair. We're guessing the account was either hacked or belongs to a friend of the aggrieved 4chan users.
The attackers also spammed email accounts belonging to myself, two higher ups at Gawker Media and Adrian Chen, author of a series of posts on how denizens of /b/ helped coordinate a campaign of harassment against an 11 year old video star and her family.
The people who lurk on /b/ don't want to be talked or written about, especially in the press, even though they make news regularly. This posture is codified in the board's "Rules 1 & 2," which both state "you do not talk about /b/." On Encyclopedia Dramatica, the satirical wiki associated with 4chan, news reports mentioning /b/ from Fox News and the New York Times are both cited as "Violations of Rules 1 & 2."
Not everyone who uses 4chan thinks these rules should be enforced on the media; in fact, several spoke out on /b/ yesterday against the Gawker attacks. Some have even written in to tell us the attackers are, as one 4chaner put it, "little kids who hang around hoping to be noticed and praised by the older members," a dynamic we mentioned in yesterday's post.
Yet the attacks continued. Which makes sense; even individual people and groups associated with /b/ and 4chan can have real impact, whether it's by getting into Sarah Palin's email account, waging a surprisingly effective war against the Church of Scientology or finding iPad security breaches.
Individually, all of these activities might be distinct from 4chan per se, but taken together they add up to a pretty compelling reason to mention the site, /b/ board and the culture around both from time to time in a news context. Which is what everyone should continue to do, whenever appropriate, whether certain people hanging out on /b/ object to it or not.
[Photo, top, by Blaj Gabriel/Shutterstock.com]