Kawakami “was afraid that Nishimura might be arrested by the police”, says Sei, author of the forthcoming book The world of 2 channels. Sei recently interviewed Kawakami. “So he fired Nishimura as director.” The two, however, remained friends, he says.
In November 2014, according to Sei’s reports, Dwango bought out Nishimura’s stake in Niconico for an undisclosed amount. In January 2015, Poole announced his retirement from 4chan. In July, Nishimura was in talks to buy the website. In those conversations were Good Smile and, despite his corporate divorce from Future Search Brazil, Dwango. All three parties signed a nondisclosure agreement to cover these discussions.
Kawakami, says Sei, “wanted the opportunity, through the 4chan business, to make inroads into the U.S. and global markets. He had a particular interest in that business. Those discussions, according to Kawakami, continued “at a very advanced stage”.
Ultimately, Dwango’s involvement fell through because Kawakami “was afraid to take the legal risk”, says Sei. Nonetheless, Dwango’s money has almost certainly found its way into 4chan. “It is very obvious that Future Such Brazil received a very large sum of money [from Dwango]then those funds were used to buy 4chan,” says Sei.
Nishimura did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment, and we were unable to reach Kawakami.
After the divorce from Dwango, Future Search Brazil attempted to expand its media presence, including a short-lived attempt to launch a Japanese version of the entertainment news publication. Variety in September 2015, the same month, the 4chan deal was announced.
Eiichiro Fukami, president of Tokyo Sangyo Shimbun, a subsidiary of Future Search Brazil, has signed the 4chan partnership agreement. He confirmed to WIRED that he “was an officer of a related company” under the 4chan deal, but declined to answer further questions, citing business ethics.
Holding 4chan Accountable
While 4chan’s growing infamy was evident in 2015, its penchant for extremism has become increasingly clear in the years since.
He gave birth to QAnon, developed the incel movement, and has been cited by several mass shooters around the world as a direct source of inspiration. Its users generated a dizzying amount of misinformation around the 2020 presidential election, deployed swattings to sue their critics, and produced a huge amount of far-right, racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and queerphobic memes. 4chan users view the site as American political kingmakerand it has served to corrode the political culture of Canada, Australia and Europe.
While it’s been suggested that Nishimura is working to bolster Japan’s right-wing Liberal Democratic Party, it’s harder to attribute any American political ambition to the 4chan owner. Outside of his 4chan posts, which tend to be administrative, he rarely even comments in English. According to documents filed with New York investigators, Nishimura actually lives in Paris.
The fact that 4chan became both more hateful and bigger after 2015 is a feature, not a bug, says Mitsuwo, former 2channel user and moderator of rival 5channel: It was business. “I personally believe that Nishimura and his moderators intentionally encouraged hate speech on 2channel in order to increase the site’s influence,” Mitsuwo said.