Will 4chan Be A Game Changer in Online Privacy Debate?

It's not too surprising that 4chan founder Christopher Poole and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg don't see see eye to eye on the subject of online identity. But now that Poole has called Zuckerberg "totally wrong" on the issue, and set forth his own vision for Web-based community, could 4chan be a game changer in the online privacy debate?

It’s not too surprising that 4chan founder Christopher Poole and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg don’t see see eye to eye on the subject of online identity. But now that Poole has called Zuckerberg “totally wrong” on the issue, and set forth his own vision for Web-based community, could 4chan be a game changer in the online privacy debate?

Poole, known by his 4chan username “moot,” argued in a presentation at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, over the weekend that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way.”

He went on to declare that Zuckerberg was “totally wrong” about online identity

And, with that, the debate over online privacy emerged, and the voices behind it are some of the strongest, and most influential, in social networking.

Poole is the founder of 4chan, a message board site with a community of 12 million unique visitors per month who come to swap images, launch memes, and do pretty much anything they want.

The site is probably best known for its anonymous user base and the activist hacker group that emerged from it, Anonymous.

Zuckerberg, of course, is the founder and CEO of Facebook, a site with more than 500 million users that has taken more than its share of criticism for its various privacy policies.

Where Poole compares anonymity to being the new kid in the playground given a chance to explore and experiment, Zuckerberg sees it as unethical saying, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Emphasizing the importance of a “single identity,” Zuckerberg has said his view is you should be the same person online among your friends as you are online among your coworkers.

“The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself,” Poole told the crowd in Texas, arguing Zuckerberg’s point.

Facebook wants to play a major role in bringing online identity uniformity to the forefront of social networking, of course, but what happens when Poole wants to play along too?

He’s reportedly working on a new community site called Canv.as, a website that lets people play with pictures and create online. The site integrates with Facebook Connect, but users can still post anonymously. Poole said the fact that “you know that we know” the user’s real identity would be enough to discourage people from misbehavior.

One element that may hinder Poole’s argument is pure business. He acknowledged that the site’s anonymous and freewheeling structure has impacted business and slowed growth, as brands are hesitant to run their ads against unpredictable content.

That’s certainly point in the win column for billionaire Zuckerberg, for now, but is it enough to quiet the debate?