Anonymity: Zuckerberg "wrong" says 4chan's Moot #SXSW

The 4chan founder, Christopher "moot" Poole, raged on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his Sunday keynote at South by Southwest Interactive. Of course, moot also promoted his new venture, which ironically is powered by Facebook Connect.

Mark Zuckerberg (
By Richi Jennings. March 14, 2011.

Update 1, 10.50am EDT: Add comment from Shirley Brady.

Update 2, 12.30am EDT: Add mindmap from Liisa Sorsa.

Update 3, 2.55pm EDT: Add comment from Thomas Brewster.

Update 4, 7.45pm EDT: Add comment from Dan Tynan.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is "totally wrong" about online anonymity, according to 4chan honcho Christopher "moot" Poole. Moot was speaking Sunday at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin. In IT Blogwatch, nine nonymous bloggers muse on the news from SXSW Interactive.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention ZOMG! Ponies mashup...

Anthony Ha broke the story:

The founder of controversial online image board 4chan, outlined his vision for Web-based community [Sunday]. ... his ideas are in pretty sharp contrast to those of [the] Facebook founder. ... Zuckerberg [has] been pretty aggressive about advocating for users to have one identity ... because that encourages them to be more authentic.


Poole ... said, “I think that’s totally wrong.” He’s had plenty of opportunity to observe the pluses and minuses of anonymity in action, since 4chan is well-known for its anonymous user base. ... [He] argued that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way. ... The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself.” ... Poole said ... content becomes more important than the creator. ... 4chan allows anyone to ... post something that might take off.

 Lost? David M. Ewalt describes 4chan in 43 words:

4chan was started in 2003 as a message board for people interested in Japanese culture, anime and cartoons. Now 12 million people visit monthly –many of [them] visit the “/b” board, which Poole describes as “kind of the dark heart of the Internet.”


“Anyone can come in to contribute, there are no structural barriers,” said Poole. It’s also ephemeral: “There’s no archive… posts that are created fall off within minutes.”

Shirley Brady adds more background:

You may not be familiar with 4chan, one of the largest online communities. ... But you may recall how its founder, the 23-year-old Christopher Poole who's better known online as "Moot," managed to get 16.8 million votes on Time's 2009 Person of the Year online poll to land its "most influential person" title.

Josh Halliday "is insufferably enthusiastic":

Outlining his case for online anonymity – complete with a dig at ... Zuckerberg – 24-year-old Poole argued that 4Chan's chaotic messageboard is a fertile breeding ground for creativity. ... "It's riffing on a massive scale," Poole told a packed audience in the Austin Convention Center.


Anonymity ... was one of the founding principles of 4Chan. It is this that sets ... Poole ... in stark contrast to Zuckerberg, two years his elder, who described anonymous internet posting as showing "a lack of integrity."


"Anonymity is authenticity. It allows you to share in a completely unvarnished, raw way," Poole said, adding that the internet allows people to "reinvent themselves" as if they were moving home or starting a new job.

Mike Melanson offers this angle:

The topic of authenticity has been in the news as of late, with the introduction of Facebook-powered comments on the Web. ... The issue at hand is whether or not forcing users to connect their comments with their real identity will stifle expression. ... Some, such as blogger Robert Scoble, argue that linking comments to Facebook identity increases authenticity ... adding context to what people say ... [and so] people cannot anonymously pose as other people.


Of course, when we speak of 4chan, we're talking about a collection of memes and creations that few bloggers or publishers would want to grace their comments section.

Lee Simmons sums it up for us:

Poole attributes 4chan’s success to four key factors:

  • Fluid identity: ... anonymity means you can be more flexible and creative in your contributions.
  • Creative mutation: Multiple people can contribute.
  • Playing with media: The Web is not set in stone.
  • Shared experience: The power of community is [as] inherent online as it is in real life.
His latest endeavor, Canvas, [is] a new content collaboration website dedicated to giving online users a new way of hanging out online.

And Liisa Sorsa adds this exciting visual summary:

Ogilvy summary of moot's keynote

But Chris Dannen has this unpleasant simile

[It's] like your daughter bringing home an ex-convict for dinner and saying that he's actually a "really good guy."
Canvas is a modernized, re-thought message board that deals mostly in images and short comments ... and feels less like a sleazy Internet saloon than 4Chan does. ... Unlike older message boards, Canvas will prioritize pictures, games, social networking, and other nowadays tech instead of long text posts. The shocker: it's built on the Facebook API.

Alistair Fairweather explains the irony:

Poole has received some criticism for the fact that Canvas requires a Facebook Connect login ... but he dismisses this. He assures the audience that this is simply to keep an unwanted element from getting in. ... Interactions will still be anonymous, but users are aware that Canvas knows who they are and so behave accordingly.

Yeah, but who's right? Thomas Brewster tries to decide

Well, both of them… and neither of them. It’s fairly obvious to anyone that anonymity can be used for heinous acts over the web, from straight-up bullying to slander. ... Then again, anonymity allows people to say things that need to be said, without placing themselves at excessive risk.
[But] don’t take all Zuckerberg’s comments seriously – remember the time he said the iPad wasn’t mobile? Yeah, exactly.

Dan Tynan is less even-handed:

I'm not buying the "anonymity = authenticity" trope. I have a hard time considering someone "authentic" when they post drive-by slander. ... The cost of failure should be high -- that's the whole point. 
This is what happens when you wake up one morning, realize you're sick of living with roommates, and need to make more money so that you can get a place of your own.

Do we have a problem? Thomas Houston has video:
[albeit with some suspicious sound effects]

Part 1 of 3 is embedded below:

And Finally...
ZOMG! Ponies mashup [hat tip: Rym and Scott]
Bonus link: More mashups from Robin Skouteris
Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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