Kawakami “was afraid that Nishimura could be arrested by the police,” says Sei, author of the upcoming book The World of 2 Channel. Sei recently interviewed Kawakami. “So he dismissed Nishimura as a director.” The two, however, remained friends, he says.
In November 2014, according to Sei’s reporting, Dwango bought out Nishimura’s stake in Niconico for an undisclosed amount. In January 2015, Poole announced his retirement from 4chan. By July, Nishimura was in talks to buy the website. In those conversations was Good Smile and, despite its corporate divorce with Future Search Brazil, Dwango. The three parties signed a nondisclosure agreement to cover those discussions.
Kawakami, Sei says, “wanted the opportunity, through the 4chan business, to make inroads into the US and world markets. He had a special interest in this business.” Those discussions, according to Kawakami, went on to a “very late stage.”
Ultimately, Dwango’s involvement fell through because Kawakami “was afraid of taking the legal risk,” Sei says. Nevertheless, Dwango’s money almost certainly found its way into 4chan. “It’s very obvious that Future Such Brazil received a very large amount of money [from Dwango]and then those funds were used to buy 4chan,” Sei says.
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 tried 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 Future Search Brazil subsidiary Tokyo Sangyo Shimbun, signed the 4chan partnership agreement. He confirmed to WIRED that he “was an executive officer of a related company” in the 4chan deal but declined to answer further questions, citing professional ethics.
Holding 4chan Accountable
While 4chan’s growing infamy was apparent in 2015, its penchant for extremism has become increasingly clear in the years that followed.
It birthed QAnon, grew the incel movement, and was cited by multiple mass shooters around the world as a direct source of inspiration. Its users generated a dizzying amount of disinformation around the 2020 presidential election, deployed swattings to go after their detractors, and produced an enormous amount of far-right, racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and queerphobic memes. 4chan users consider the site an American political kingmakerand it has helped corrode the political culture of Canada, Australia, and Europe.
While it has been suggested that Nishimura is working to boost the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, it’s more difficult to ascribe any kind of American political ambition to 4chan’s owner. Apart from his posts on 4chan, which tend to be administrative, he rarely even comments in English. According to documents filed to the New York investigators, Nishimura actually lives in Paris.
The fact that 4chan became both more hateful and more prominent after 2015 is a feature, not a bug, says Mitsuwo, a former 2channel user and moderator of the rival 5channel: It was all business. “I personally think that Nishimura and his moderators intentionally encouraged hate speech on 2channel in order to heighten the influence of the site,” Mitsuwo says.