Where does The Hacker Known as 4Chan come from?
On August 31, 2014, private, nude photos of several celebrities were posted to 4Chan, a popular internet message board, in an event dubbed “The Fappening.” The photos had been hacked from Apple’s iCloud service.
One of the early reports on the event, from MTV Australia, claimed that “a hacker known as ‘4chan’” was responsible for the leak. By September 2, MTV Australia had updated the article to instead refer to “A hacker, known only as a user of website ‘4 Chan.’” Users of the social media site Reddit, however, had already taken and posted screen captures of the original article, the humor being that the news outlets reported on the event as though 4Chan referred to a person rather than a website.
MTV was not the only outlet to make this mistake. CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin asked, on air, “Who is this 4chan person or website?” CNN tech analyst Brett Larson’s infamous response also referred to 4chan as if he thought 4Chan was an individual's hacker callsign.
The British tabloid The Mirror illustrated, to much amusement online, its story about the nude photo hack with an image of a man wearing a ski-mask—an article of clothing of no benefit to a hacker, suggesting the publication was out of touch.
Who uses The Hacker Known as 4Chan?
Following the above flubs, tech-savvy people began to attribute other hacking events and all manner of cybercrimes to the mysterious Hacker Known as 4Chan. Pictures of masked men, especially wearing the Guy Fawkes mask associated with the group Anonymous, are sometimes snarkily captioned as the Hacker Known as 4Chan. Behind the jokes, though, is a critique of the occasionally uninformed or inept way some outlets report on technology news. The Hacker Known as 4Chan can also be a stand-in for any internet bogeyman.
“Forget Mr. Robot—Elliot's actually the hacker known as 4chan.”
santhorin Reddit (Jul 7, 2015)
“I sincerely hope the hacker known as 4chan doesn't leak my nudes for writing this article.”
Will Hicks @William__Hicks Twitter (March 13, 2016)
“On February 11th, the Hacker known as 4chan got his hands on the meme and teamed up with the forces of the Alt Right and they perverted this meme, turning it into a hate symbol...”
Quincy Frey, “Right Wing Dove Squad: How Trash Doves Became The Symbol of The Alt Right,” Medium (February 13, 2017)