When 4chan users are not busy sharing and discussing anime pornography, they can be some of the most efficient crowdsourcing researchers on the web. The /pol/ board in particular was able to find the exact location of an ISIS camp just by clues in a recruitment video. Their research reportedly led to a successful airstrike on the location.
Their new research obsession is antifa, the loose group of anti-fascists, consisting of communists and anarchists, who’ve been wreaking havoc in the Trump era. The group uses violence and black bloc tactics and have been involved in various riots and street clashes with the alt right, most notably in Berkeley, California.
4chan/pol/ are now attempting to create a database of antifa members through a crowdsourced investigation. Most of the legwork is being done by users working together, manually trying to match facial features and clothes to public social media profiles.
They could use the database to identify quickly an antifa member who causes violence against people /pol/ believe to be on their side (/ourguys/) and report them to the police. Some antifa members are professors and teachers, and proof of their violent agitations could be used to get them fired.
The main anti-fascist organization in Berkeley is BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) a group towards which Berkeley’s mayor appears to be sympathetic. Many of their members are already publicly identifiable, like middle school teacher Yvette Felarca.
The obvious downside of these crowdsourced identifying operations is that sometimes they identify the wrong person. After the Boston Marathon bombing, Reddit users attempted to find the bomber, but identified the wrong guy. He was found later, dead in a river, and his mom received death threats on the phone.
This time, some of the people in the “antifa database” photo above aren’t even antifa members and were identified on Twitter as Trump supporters or objective bystanders.
— Jennifer Alvarez (@Jennife96039053) April 24, 2017
They used various photos of the man in the mask to match it up with another man with his mask off. They then matched those photos with leftist professor Eric Clanton at Diablo Valley College, who had lectured on anarchist tactics in the past.
While the evidence for his identity is compelling, it’s not conclusive and they certainly could have gotten the wrong man. Clanton has since deleted his social media presence after being identified by 4chan. Whether or not, Clanton is guilty, he is already bearing the brunt of Internet justice.
It is uncertain at this point what the scope of the database will be. Just hope you don’t get your name on it.