To those who grew up on the Internet, chan culture is nothing new – nor is it immediately synonymous with hate speech, violence and extremism. Indeed, for many, chans are simply places to discuss shared passions with people from around the world – be it video games, anime or music. However, features including user anonymity and a lax approach to content moderation have contributed to a culture of trolling and bigotry on a number of prominent chan boards. This, alongside the string of extreme right-wing attacks in 2019 that had connections to several chans, and the glorification of violence exhibited by users within the culture itself, has meant that governments and law enforcement agencies have been forced to consider the ways in which these spaces may be influencing extremist behaviour.
That said, the presence of memes, in-jokes and ironic counterculture across the chans make it near-impossible to determine the sincerity behind a user’s post, nor can we ever say with total authority that spending time on a chan board is the ‘smoking gun’ behind an individual’s radicalisation and/or act of violence. Given the overwhelmingly cynical and nihilistic attitudes found within these subcultures, in which anything and everything can be reduced to a joke, what exactly can be achieved by engaging with, and attempting to moderate chan culture?