Christopher Poole: Where is The 4Chan Founder Now?

Netflix’s ‘The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem’ documents the transformation of an online community, originating from a Japanese meme-sharing website, into a platform rife with misogyny and alt-right ideologies. This evolution culminated in real-world disturbances, notably the storming of the US Capitol in 2021. The documentary unravels the roots of this phenomenon back to 2003 when a 15-year-old boy launched a website called 4chan under the alias “Moot.” Though Christopher Poole, the real identity behind “Moot,” does not appear in the film, his role and the impact of his creation are extensively discussed by various commentators.

Christopher Poole Believed in Online Anonymity

Born in 1988, Christopher Poole spent much of his childhood in New York. He was someone who took a quick fascination with the online world just when it was cropping up. He was quite active on a Japanese imageboard called 2chan which was a place where users could anonymously post and discuss a wide range of topics, including anime, manga, video games, technology, and general discussion. Poole copied the software from 2chan and launched its American counterpart 4chan in 2003.

Poole, known by his online pseudonym “moot,” witnessed rapid growth and engagement on 4chan, transforming it into a vibrant online hub where social norms were often disregarded and humor knew no bounds. Despite his prominence within the 4chan community, he maintained a veil of anonymity, a stance he championed as essential for internet freedom and liberty. Poole’s first public appearance at the 2005 Otakon anime convention surprised many, revealing the face behind the digital persona and further elevating his status both within and beyond the 4chan community.

In 2008, the Wall Street Journal outed him with his real name but Poole stood behind the infamous group Anonymous, which had sprung from 4chan. He vouched that the best way to use the internet freely and equally was anonymously. He was even invited for a TED talk in 2010 where he propounded similar ideas. As 4chan evolved, it departed from Poole’s original vision, becoming a platform where trolling, both online and in real life, thrived alongside misogyny and violence directed at women.

The rise of the Gamergate harassment campaign, which targeted women in the video game industry with coordinated online attacks and harassment, highlighted the toxic culture festering within online communities like 4chan. In response to the escalating controversies and the detrimental impact on the platform’s reputation, Poole announced his retirement as the head administrator and founder of 4chan.

The 4Chan Founder is Celebrated Even Today

TEDx Talks/YouTube

Upon his departure, Christopher Poole revealed that he had contemplated stepping down for quite some time, urging users to spend less time immersed in the online world and more time connecting with nature. He made a post in which he said, “The journey has been marked by highs and lows, surprises and disappointments, but ultimately immense satisfaction. I’m humbled to have had the privilege of both founding and presiding over what is easily one of the greatest communities to ever grace the web.”

In September 2015, he officially passed the reins of 4chan to Hiroyuki Nishimura, the founder of 2chan. His other initiatives namely, Canvas and DrawQuest which he had started in 2010 and 2013 respectively, were also shut down in 2014. In 2016, Poole started working for Google. He shared his belief that prioritizing the well-being of users and promoting positive interactions was essential for the sustainable growth of online platforms.

Poole started with the role of a product manager in the photos and streams unit, where he oversaw social networking efforts under the leadership of VP Bradley Horowitz. During his tenure, he took on various responsibilities and contributed to different projects within the company. In 2016, Poole reportedly became a partner at Google’s in-house startup incubator, Area 120. Subsequently, in 2018, he assumed the role of product manager for Google Maps. Additionally, Poole’s association with Google+ marked a significant aspect of his time at the company.

However, his tenure at Google was not devoid of controversies. His hiring drew criticism from many quarters, particularly regarding Google’s commitment to diversity in hiring practices, with Poole’s recruitment being perceived as out of touch with these principles. He left Google in April 2021 and has kept a low public profile since then. People in online communities still talk of the universe that he created in 4chan during its early days. It is a testament to his work that still echoes in the endless throng of the beast that is the internet.

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