How Did 4Chan and Gawker Get Chris Hansen "Arrested" for Child Molestation?

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Chris Hansen -- the host of NBC's infamous child sex scandal exploitation show To Catch A Predator -- was not arrested for child molestation. Yet "chris hansen arrested for child molestation" is a "volcanic"-level trending Google search, currently ranked in the top spot. How did this happen and what does 4Chan's kind deed from yesterday have to do with it?

First, it's worth knowing that To Catch A Predator has long been a subject of heavy media scrutiny and external police investigations centering around the people baiting the "predator" into being arrested. Most of this reporting on the show was fired off by a started with a September 2007 Esquire profile of a suicide that resulted from the show by Luke Dittrich. The lawsuit against NBC regarding the man the Esquire profile centered around, Bill Conradt, who killed himself after he was featured on the show, was for $105M and was settled by NBC in 2008. The major grievance against the show centers around the idea that NBC is encouraging men to pose as men trying to have sex with minors, thus resulting in a roundabout entrapment. Hansen, who is the host of the show, has also been reported on throughout these investigations.

So of course, it would be nothing short of incredibly shocking if Chris Hansen were to ever be arrested for the kind of crime these vigilantes go after on the show. Which is why, if you were to see on Google that the top search for right now is "chris hansen arrested for child molestation," you'd be pretty shocked. Well, he hasn't been, and its been confirmed by multiple news outlets.

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Supposedly, this search originated from the arrest of this guy, James William Hansen, who was, in fact, arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last night for "inappropriate sexual contact" with minors. Reportedly, Hansen's Wikipedia was changed by a prankster to reflect that he, too, had been arrested. Thus, the Google Trending and viral nature of the meme.

So what does mischievous, anonymous message board 4Chan have to do with this? Take a look:

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Click to Enlarge.

The only related search to "chris hansen arrested for child molestation" is "William J. Lashua," which is the name of the 90 year-old war veteran that 4Chan decided to bomb with positive, happy birthday mail yesterday in a separate viral meme that yielded us wondering whether or not 4Chan was becoming "nice" yesterday after showing their "sweeter" side. We weren't the only ones, because Adrian Chen at Gawker -- whose writings about the viciousness of 4Chan's notorious "/b" board caused 4Chan members to declare war on Gawker and Chen (thereafter bombarding Chen with hate mail and at one point, actually bringing the massive gossip news site down) -- wrote about 4Chan yet again last night, about the same "William J. Lashua" meme we covered yesterday afternoon. Chen's headline?

Is 4chan Turning Into Internet Good Guys?

Looks like they decided to show everyone otherwise, just in case we were wondering.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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