moot, a skinny 21-year-old college student and hacker prodigy who looks about 16, runs a website out of his parents’ basement called 4chan, an adults only bulletin board where just about anything can be posted—with the exception of advertising. Oh, and anything that violates local or US law, or any complaints about 4chan of any kind. Under rule number two is a reminder that if you are under the age of 18 you need to “discontinue browsing immediately.” Since moot launched 4chan in October 2003 with his mother’s credit card, obviously he’s spent a fair amount of the time in-between breaking his own rules.
moot describes 4chan as “a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images.” Because people can post anonymously—the comments and images–and subject matter–can get pretty raunchy. It has a simple, alphabetical (but coded) format with content that leans toward anime and manga.
Time reporter Lev Grossman reported in TIME magazine on July 9, 2008 that moot was getting “8.5 million page views a day and 3.3 million visitors a month… those visitors have put up 145 million posts. By some metrics, 4chan is the fourth largest bulletin board on the Net.” By April 2009, according to TIME, 4chan was averaging 13 million page views a day and 5.6 million visitors a month—and was estimated to be the second largest bulletin board in the world. Time put moot on their list of worlds most influential people.
On April 27, TIME again reported on moot—this time to announce that in the 2009 Time.com user poll of “The World’s Most Influential People,” the winner “and new owner of World’s Most Influential Person” –was moot. Christopher Poole, moot’s real name, had received 16,794,368 oonline votes, beating Obama, Oprah, Madoff—even the Dalai Lama. The second place winner, Anwar Ibrahim, trailed moot in the TIME poll by over 14 million votes, with 2,316,378.
Just one problem—TIME was gamed—completely–by 4chan followers, primarily those who follow Anonymous, a favorite 4chan. According to Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch, not only did 4channers recode the contest to make Poole the winner by a mile, the next 20 on the list were also gamed. For proof, the first letter of the first names of the 21 top winners spells out MARBLECAKE ALSO THE GAME. In his blog Music Machinery, Paul Lamere goes into detail about how it was accomplished. According to Lamere, TIMW’a voting mechanism was easily manipulated, with crowdsourcing from moot fans—a high precision hack.
Although TIME noted in its TIME 100 issue that there were several attempts to hack the vote, so far, the editors haven’t owned up to what 4chan’s followers accomplished—at least not in their own magazine. Meanwhile, the 4chan bashing and Time.com bashing rolls on in tech blogs everywhere.