The 8Chan Story

How a childhood of anger led the founder of 8chan to create one of the darkest corners of the internet

From its effect on the world, 8chan could be ranked as one of the internet’s most dangerous sites. Some have even compared it to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda or ISIS. The pattern is similar: men – and it is always men – find their way there, and get radicalised into an extreme ideology which drives some of them to violence.

But there is no fundamentalist preacher for the ideology of chan sites. It’s mostly lonely people who find themselves in a febrile information ecosystem without precedent in human history. Chan sites like 8chan are something entirely new: organic communities of anonymous participants that have started to behave almost like a new consciousness, separate and more powerful and dangerous than the sum of its parts.

The anger and hate that spews from 8chan is not a conscious extension of the anger and hate of its creator – though he had plenty – but an inevitable byproduct of the dark structure he built. The story of 8chan’s founder, Fredrick Brennan, is a perfect expression of this: born with a profound disability and shuttled in and out of foster care, his creation of the site was born not out of cold calculation or political ambition, but from a need to find community in loneliness.

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