Major websites such as Facebook, Google and Netflix are speaking up today to oppose an effort by Republican policymakers who are seeking to undo the government's net neutrality regulations — those federal rules passed in 2015 aimed at making sure Internet providers like Verizon or AT&T can't manipulate what you can see online.
But joining them is a curious corner of the Web: 4chan, the message-board site that's known for producing an avalanche of pro-Donald Trump memes during the 2016 presidential campaign that made the GOP nominee a viral sensation on social media and, many argue, helped usher him into the Oval Office. It's Trump's own telecom regulators who, now, are spearheading the very repeal effort that so many websites are protesting this week. And 4channers are irate about it.
Message boards across 4chan showed a special message to visitors Wednesday aimed at highlighting how the roll-back of the net neutrality rules could allow Internet providers to block access to the site, known for producing an avalanche of pro-Trump memes during the 2016 campaign that helped make the GOP nominee a viral sensation on social media.
"Join the Day of Action for Net Neutrality, or else we may all end up banned from 4chan," the banner reads.
As a community that exists almost entirely online, 4chan is dependent on its users being able to access the site anytime — so it's no surprise to see its members defending net neutrality. But the irony is inescapable: A community that worked so tirelessly to overthrow the system by backing Trump is now fearing for its existence in the face of the chaos it helped create.
4chan users expressed alarm over the regulatory proposal by Ajit Pai, Trump's pick for Federal Communications Commission chair.
"I really just want to ban throttling and ban data caps," wrote one user Wednedsay on 4chan's technology board, /g/, accusing Internet providers of trying to line their pockets.
Some speculated that those sounding the alarm over the net neutrality rules' looming repeal were secretly corporate lackeys, while others fired back that the consensus on 4chan had always been in favor of net neutrality.
Conversation quickly shifted to debate the finer points of broadband competition in the United States.
"If big providers throttle speeds on services like Netflix, wouldn't that just siphon customers away from these big providers towards other providers that don't throttle?" one user wrote.
"The customers can't go to anyone else," another replied, "because there's little competition in large swathes [sic] of geographic regions of the country."
The tone Wednesday on 4chan's politics board, /pol/, sharply contrasted with the sentiment there the day after Trump won the election. As my colleague Abby Ohlheiser reported at the time, 4chan users said they were "trembling out of excitement" after having "actually elected a meme as president."
Fast forward several months, and the posts on /pol/ now read like this.
"Hopefully /pol/ can be unanimous on this, and not disagree with it just to be ironic or edgy. Just this once," wrote another user, who added that as much as he or she hated "agreeing with liberal[s]… they're right on this one. (((internet service providers))) will get way too much power if we let them."
A spokesperson for 4chan didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.