4chan controversies. (via makeuseofimages.com)
May 2012 Following the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, discussions of race, gun control and how laws are interpreted dominated the news cycle. The issue of race, in particular, became contentious, with people claiming that Zimmerman shot Martin the night of Feb. 26 because he was black.
These claims angered one hacker named Klanklannon, who hacked Martin’s Facebook and email. Klanklannon posted screengrabs of emails Facebook messages to 4chan's politics board to show that Martin "somehow deserved to be killed," Gawker reported.
August 2008 The former Alaska governor had her email account broken into by a 4chan user during the 2008 election. The man behind the "hack" was David Kernell, a college student and son of state representative Mike Kernell of Memphis.
Kernell was able to access Palin's email account by using Yahoo's password recovery feature. He posted screenshots of the emails to 4chan's /b/ imageboard where they ultimately captured the world's attention. Kernell was ultimately arrested and charged with four felonies. He served one year and day in prison and is currently on probation.
May 2012 Following the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, discussions of race, gun control and how laws are interpreted dominated the news cycle. The issue of race, in particular, became contentious, with people claiming that Zimmerman shot Martin the night of Feb. 26 because he was black. These claims angered one hacker named Klanklannon, who hacked Martin’s Facebook and email. Klanklannon posted screengrabs of emails Facebook messages to 4chan's politics board to show that Martin "somehow deserved to be killed," Gawker reported.
Crashing Apple's Stock Price
In October 2008, 4chan was responsible for Apple stock losing 10 percent of its value when its members successfully spread a rumor about the death of Steve Jobs. The rumor said he'd suffered a massive heart attack.
NFL Bomb Threat
Between September and October of 2006, 22-year-old Jake Brahm posted at least 40 different threats on 4chan. One of them included a detailed plan to detonate 7 bombs at NFL stadiums in cities including New York, Atlanta and Miami.
"The death toll will approach 100,000 from the initial blasts and countless other fatalities will later occur as result from radioactive fallout," Brahm wrote, according to Tom's Guide.
Brahm was arrested and pleaded guilty to posting a bomb threat on the Internet. He ended up serving six months in prison.
A Swastika on Google
Because of the way Google's algorithms work, it's possible to game the system if you can get enough people on board. That's precisely what 4chan did in 2008 when it sent the swastika symbol to the top of Google's Hot Trends list. For a while, Google was stumped. It couldn't find the reason why it happened. Eventually, it was discovered a post on 4chan told users to search for the swastika's Unicode symbol.
Google was forced to issue an apology.
Murder in Port Orchard, Washington
According to court documents filed on November 5, 2014, there were images posted to 4chan that appeared to be of a murder victim. The body was discovered in Port Orchard, Washington, after the images were posted.
The posts were accompanied by the text: "Turns out it's way harder to strangle someone to death than it looks on the movies." A later post said: "Check the news for Port Orchard, Washington, in a few hours. Her son will be home from school soon. He'll find her, then call the cops. I just wanted to share the pics before they find me." The victim was Amber Lynn Coplin, aged 30.
The suspect, 33-year-old David Michael Kalac, surrendered to police in Oregon later the same day; he was charged with second-degree murder involving domestic violence. Kalac was convicted in April 2017 and was sentenced to 82 years in prison the following month.
Bianca Devins murder
On July 14, 2019, 17-year-old Bianca Devins was murdered by 21-year-old Brandon Clark of Utica, New York after the two went to a concert together. The suspect took pictures of the victim's bloodied deceased body and posted it to Discord and his own Instagram page. The photos were widely shared on Instagram and other sites, particularly on 4chan where many users mocked and celebrated her death, saying she deserved it and praising the killer while depicting Devins as a manipulative young woman. Devins had developed a small following online and was a 4chan user herself.
Celebrity photo leaks
On August 31, 2014, a large number of private photographs taken by celebrities were posted online due to a compromise of user passwords at iCloud. The images were initially posted on 4chan. As a result of the incident, 4chan announced that it would enforce a Digital Millennium Copyright Act policy, which would allow content owners to remove material that had been shared on the site illegally, and would ban users who repeatedly posted stolen material.
In January 2011, Matthew Riskin Bean, a 20-year-old man from New Jersey, was sentenced to 45 days in prison for cyberbullying on 4chan.
Also in August 2014, 4chan was involved in the Gamergate controversy, which began with unsubstantiated allegations about indie game developer Zoë Quinn from an ex-boyfriend, followed by false allegations from anonymous Internet users.
The allegations were followed by a harassment campaign against several women in the video game industry, organized by 4chan users, particularly /r9k/. Discussion regarding Gamergate was banned on 4chan due to alleged rule violations, and Gamergate supporters moved to alternate forums such as 8chan.