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Trial Testimony from Sarah Palin Hacking Scandal Gives Insight into How 4chan Works

No, naked pictures of Sarah Palin did not end up on the web. She did have her own 4chan scandal though.

Way back in 2008, when she was the vice-presidential nominee for the GOP, Palin found herself in the middle of her own 4chan mess after a hacker associated with the site hacked into her e-mail and posted screenshots of her e-mails and list of contacts online.

The e-mails were quickly picked up around the web, including Gawker, who posted images (including a goofy shot of her daughter Bristol) and e-mails of the then-governor whining about being in the cross hairs of a local radio host.

All in all, the recovered information wasn’t much more embarrassing that Palin says in public (especially these days) but they did lead to a trial of the hacker on federal charges.

During that trial,  4chan’s founder was called to testify and explain to the courts just what 4chan, rickrolling and the Random/ b/board was all about.

Christopher Poole,  the founder of 4chan better known by his handle ‘Moot,’ explained the inner-workings of the infamous board that is now the center of the naked celebrity scandal.

“4chan is a forum. It’s an image board, so it’s just kind of a forum that the primary focus is the posting of images,” he said during the 2010 trial.

He also said that the Random /b/board was one of the most popular on the site and that with there were few rules, except that you could not break the federal or local laws by posting, which was allowed without revealing your real name.

In response to the lawyer’s questions, he also described one of 4chan’s pranks, known as rickrolling, to the courts.

“Rickroll is a mean [meme?] or Internet kind of trend that started on 4chan where users — it basically a bait and switch,” he told the courts. “Users link you to a video of Rick Astley performing Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Most surprisingly, Moot made it clear that, at least in 2010,  4chan was not the free-for-all that people think it is, and illegal images – like the underage shots of McKayla Maroney – were actually a violation of the forum’s policies.

Moot also did not show much support to the Tennessee student, David Kernell, who used the forum to break Palin’s e-mails to the internet world and during the court proceedings made it clear that 4chan helped use Kernell’s IP address to help track him down.

Palin hacker Kernell was ultimately sentenced to one year in custody for his crimes. 4chan and ‘Moot’ were not charged.

Photo Credit: Washington Note

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.