In Episode 14 of the “Law & Business” podcast, Anthony and Oz Sultan (Sultan Interactive Group LLC) talk about the sale of 4chan and how that intersects with Internet privacy. Internet privacy is an oxymoron. Any website that is accessible for free means that there’s a product involved. (In this particular case, it is the services of Verna Law, P.C.) In many cases, if there is user-generated content, the content and the user are the products. Meaning that the website can only monetize by keeping track of the users and understanding the users’ behavior, and, ultimately, selling that information to other websites that need the same information.
Here is a lightly-edited transcript of the episode:
This is Oz and Anthony and we are broadcasting from Serendipity
Labs and Rye, New York. We are up in Westchester County. The first thing I want
to talk about, which is an interest to trolls and non trolls alike is the sale
of 4chan this week.
So let’s start here because I have to admit, despite my
bachelor’s in computer science, I don’t really use 4chan. So let’s start here
with anybody who probably doesn’t know 4chan better than the listeners on the
podcast. So I don’t mind just starting there.
Sure. So 4chan started with four friends started about a
little earlier than Facebook and was literally considered the, I guess you
could call almost like the armpit of the Internet. So while it’s interesting
because they have this term called [inaudible] it posting, which is really,
it’s, it’s not necessarily trolling but it’s on the caliber trolling, which is
what a lot of the board does. So a lot of the board, which is B and pull in
several other sub boards, almost like reddit that it becomes surprisingly
popular are largely folks posting whatever their opinions are, which are, you
know, largely I would guess troll s type opinions. But it’s, it’s really one of
like the, the last sort of free rein areas in the Internet. And like you can
say anything, literally anything.
And it doesn’t matter how, what the quality is, it doesn’t
matter how good or offensive the posts are?
You can say anything. And you know, in certain cases it’s,
it’s that standard sort of one upmanship that we’ve been getting over and over
and over again. W with Facebook posts now where everything has become the, you
know, you’re arguing with my myopia, so I will throw more of my myopia at you.
So, uh, so what was interesting was the one of the founders of two channel who
had been booted off of to channel here are Yuki had actually acquired fortune
from moot on Monday. So what’s interesting is in light of what had gone on last
year with Gamergate, which I think everyone’s relatively aware of, a lot of the
folks that have left reddit or were already on Reddit were also on
unfortunately as well. Now the two channel, the two channel sale has some impacts
to fortune. Um, in as much as when I’m, the owner of two channel had actually
sold a lot of private data. So Fortune’s one of these places like reddit where
you can not necessarily just hide behind a pseudonym, but most of the posts on
this on four Tanakh are completely anonymous. Um, so it’s anonymous commenting
and Anonymous. There is data that they capture in terms of who you are, where
you’re coming from.
So they, when you log in, even if you’re anonymous, they
know where you are. Cause you interrupt that.
I mean unless you’re running behind a whole bunch of VPN
proxies, they have a relative idea of who you are.
It also probably, it probably picks up the cookies as well
So, I think that the challenge that you have to look at with
this, with data being sold now or the ability to sell data, this is actually
changing the way that people might generally engage. It also might push a lot
of the folks that were on fortune or word trolls, um, onto other sites. So you
could be looking at more gamer gate apps for Gamer Gate, like happening inside
of the next 10 months.
I’m assuming 4chan is gigantic.
That’s not unreasonable. I mean that’s reasonably large. I
don’t think we have accurate data on who the users are or where the users are
from. But I can tell you that they are largely 18 to 36 year old males,
predominantly white, predominantly United States.
So still with that particular amount, it must take a lot of
server space to keep the, keep it rolling to keep the database. Obviously there
has to be quite a bit of surface space use.
There was, I think there’s a fair amount of surface space used, but I think the larger issue is more the fact that if you have someone who has sold private data previously, right, uh, they are more than likely to sell the private data again and again of the new communities that they’ve, purchased.
It’s a merit type system that you can buy into, which was almost, it was just kind of what reddit was, was founded on. But what’s interesting is looking at Reddit, and fortunately we got a lot of these communities that weren’t necessarily initially designed to monetize. They’re now being pushed into this monetization era where it’s like, hey, you have a community. You’re doing something, uh, we’re interested and turning you into some sort of profitable enterprise that’s gonna change everything. And I think it’s not just here. I think this is sort of the tipping point of what’s to come with reddit.
Europe, what do we know about 4chan?
Currently, I mean a new owner, he was kicked off of 2chan, which was the company that he owns.
He had apparently mounted DOS attacks against a two channel at one point and five of two channels.
The Japanese equivalent for shot, so to speak. So there’s, there’s another one called hate channel for 8chan, which is still out there.
So it’s going to be kind of interesting to see one, the migration of user base in between, you know, different anonymous private networks, but to what the impact of actually selling the data of users. Unfortunately it’s going to happen to the user base because people are expecting it to be anonymous.
And one: first things first on the Internet. Nothing’s
really anonymous because it comes with an IP address. It comes with your
cookies that are sitting on a drive. So in your browser is your, is your
history, and that can be sliced, diced and Juliet and sent out to 48 company.
If you’re just searching the web and your cookies are being picked up, a lot of
people would get really scared if they actually knew how that data was treated
between company. So somebody goes to fortune thinking that they’re anonymous,
that data can be sold and that data can be sold. Sorry, I like that podcast.
But that day it can be resold and here at fortune in order to keep things going
that that’s really going to be the way to monetize.
Well, it’s, it’s not necessarily what should have happened, but it is what happened, right. Uh, I think the user base is a little about it. So I, you know, it’s, it’s, I think it’s something we’re going to keep track of and keep an eye on in the upcoming months and we’ll see where this one goes.
Do you expect, what 4chan is – the armpit of the Internet – to actually change?
No, I didn’t expect that to change at all. What I expect is
Facebook, when Facebook had decided that they were going to use your personal
pictures inside of advertising over years ago, everyone went up in arms and
Facebook changed their position. Because what we’re talking about here is not
terms per se, but the sale of the platform to someone who will most likely sell
private data and has pretty much said that he’s looking to monetize by selling
private data. I think either a people blue migrate or B, you will see a
different type of engagement than you’ve seen previously.
Is this really though all that different than other Internet sites? Because a lot of internet sites in order to keep rolling, keep advertising money in, are selling the premises problematic?
Well, I think, I think the, the, the challenge that you
really have is privacy. All right, so what does privacy mean? What does mean
when I go to a site? What does it mean if I’m actually exchanging money for
that site and what does my privacy work? Um, I think most folks are open to Hani,
a good chunk of privacy away for comfort commodity. Oh triplicity if I can sign
up easy, if you can get me information alerts, great. Um, anything along those
lines. They’re super happy just to, to not have to do other things to be sign
up wholeheartedly. What is that going to lead to that could lead to problems
future forward. But right now, right now I think simply because there aren’t a
lot of great strategies out there for many of these companies and advertising
agency advertising, seeing a dive. So as a, what was it, uh, first of this
month? Yes. Google chrome pretty much said that autoplay and all ads that are
earning insights to stop.
Even Microsoft Internet explorer and the new Microsoft Edge
are defaulted to sending out the due, not practical to other websites. Now,
some websites are combating that by saying we’re going to program our websites
to ignore, do not track man.
But realistically, you know, most folks are going to see a
little bit of a reduction in ads and most of what’s going to happen is going to
see a reduction in revenues or, um, some of these sites.
Well, I would expect that to happen anyway because
advertising monetized journalism.
But, I think privacy is a big issue. Revenue’s a huge issue
for companies and this shift that we’re starting to see where, you know, even
the most secure or full private segments of the Internet are now for option.
It’s kind of a brave new world, not just in terms of privacy, but in terms of
companies are willing to do or speak to in order to tackle that Almighty