The results came from a website community named 4plebs. In a 2018 article, Rolling Stone referred to 4plebs as a “sister site” of 4chan. According to the Washington Post, “4chan is a series of wholly anonymous, anything-goes forums.” 4plebs archives posts from 4chan’s various threads.
A statement on the image search results on 4plebs homepage reads, “We are receiving many redundant reports for already removed content so please clear your browser cache and refresh the page before reporting images. One additional s***storm might be coming our way so hold on to your hats – #Admin.”
A Twitter Account Associated With 4plebs Tweeted the Question, ‘Did Someone Find Something Interesting on Google?’ After the Bizarre Search Results Were Uncovered
On April 21, a Twitter account named 4plebs that posts links to archives of old 4chan posts tweeted the above photo.
According to the Frequently Asked Questions section of the 4plebs website, the site archives 4chan posts because “Threads on 4chan.org are alive for a relatively short time and get removed after a while. This site archives all threads on certain boards to preserve them for later viewing.” That section says one of the legitimate reasons to remove a post completely is for a violation of child pornography laws. The other reasons are if a post contains “Personally identifiable information” or posting “Copyrighted material not permitted under fair use doctrine.”
A Google Spokesperson Said 4plebs Has Been Deleting the Images in Question & That the Search Results Are ‘Deeply Concerning’
A complaint about the post was lodged by a person using the handle “TRUMP 2020 8957” in the early hours of April 21. The complaint read, “W T F ? search “tv television and film” and then hit “images” – HOW IS THIS CP POSSIBLE????” “CP” is common internet slang for “child pornography.”
A Google employee responded, saying the images had not been brought to their attention because “The images in question, hosted on a web forum, do not depict child sex abuse nor nudity and are not considered child sex abuse material.” The employee continued: “This said, the context of how these images are presented is deeply concerning. We will look into this case further to understand if there are improvements we can make to our systems to prevent content like this from surfacing for future similar queries.”
The response concluded by saying that 4plebs had been removing the images and that they were beginning to no longer show up in Google’s search results.
The Controversial Photos Were Posted in 4chan’s TV Thread
One of the images in question appeared on 4chan’s TV thread in October 2018. A user posted an image of a minor female in a bathing suit with the comment, “Would you describe this tummy as being: A- Not tite enough B- Perfectly tite C- Too tite. Discuss.” A comment on the post read, “This post violates United States law.” While another person commented on the minor saying, “Off centered, otherwise very sexy young girl. Would f***.”
In December 2019, the Fordham Observer named 4plebs alongside 4chan and 8chan as websites that permit “alt-right content” to be posted.
Vice News reported in July 2019 4plebs that the community has been online since 2014. The Vice report said that their reporters searched one million comments from 4plebs threads and 10% of the comments contained “common racial, homophobic and ethnic slurs, as well as white supremacist slogans.”