The politics of talking about politically incorrect things

The discussion-board site 4chan has been part of the Internet’s
dark underbelly since its inception, and recent political events
have put it increasingly in the spotlight. In particular, /pol/, the
“Politically Incorrect” board, has been a central figure in the
outlandish 2016 US election season, as it has often been linked
to the alt-right movement and its rhetoric of hate and racism.

Ha! They should have opened with a comparison of 8ch and 4chan…

However, 4chan remains relatively unstudied by the scientific
community: little is known about its user base, the content it
generates, and how it affects other parts of the Web.

4chan is unstudied by scientists, except for the scientists who know about 4chan, who don’t necessarily publish their findings.

In this
paper, we start addressing this gap by analyzing /pol/ along
several axes, using a dataset of over 8M posts we collected
over two and a half months. First, we perform a general characterization,
showing that /pol/ users are well distributed around
the world and that 4chan’s unique features encourage fresh
discussions. We also analyze content, finding, for instance,
that YouTube links and hate speech are predominant on /pol/.
Overall, our analysis not only provides the first measurement
study of /pol/, but also insight into online harassment and hate
speech trends in social media.


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