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Jeffrey Epstein's Death Was on 4Chan Before Officials Announced It (buzzfeednews.com)
83 points by one2zero 62 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

A lot of people are stepping out to defend 4chan, but the article isn't about 4chan. It's a detail in the story.

The story is that someone close to the situation leaked details in violation of HIPAA on an internet message board.

And from a correctional facility, no less. The whole thing is a mess.

edit: spelling

in violation of HIPPA

HIPAA would cover healthcare in prison. It wouldn't cover, say, what prison guards can talk about.

They may have other rules that indicate this is inappropriate, but HIPAA covers specific institutions, such as hospitals, medical personnel generally and health insurance. It doesn't actually cover anyone who ever learned anything about your health for some reason.

I wasn't speculating on the content of the article so much as just speaking to what it's actually about when many commenters were focusing on the fact that 4chan was in the headline.

I generally had otherwise considered correctional facilities to be rather mum—but it's a little different here in Canada.

Your general point is accurate. It's generally not acceptable to leak such info.

But this is only a HIPAA violation if it was leaked by medical personnel (or some other covered entity). At this time, we don't know who leaked it, so we don't know that HIPAA applies.

The article suggests it probably doesn't. It was apparently reviewed and found to be some third party, not EMS personnel.

This is a side question to your points—and completely hypothetical for my own curiosity:

In this case would a guard leaning into the cell, watching and listening to the revival or treatment attempts by EMT personnel and leaking that information approach these laws in anyway?

For instance if Epstein was living and being treated but on the verge of death and the EMT staff didn't make any attempts to prevent spectators who proceeded to leak the information—

who would be at fault in such a case? Or does that also fall outside of HIPAA in the US?

HIPAA has a minimum necessary standard of disclosure. Ideally, EMS staff should try to put a stop to lurid interest of that sort (keeping in mind that their first focus will be emergency medical care, not policing who happens to be nearby, possibly for legitimate reasons) and could be held liable if what was leaked was due to things they actually said to a third party.

But I think you would probably have to pass a test of reasonableness. If you are getting medical treatment in a public space, there's only so much EMS can do to protect your privacy.

In practice, it's really hard to strictly comply with HIPAA and many institutions routinely violate it in small ways.

From what I gather, law enforcement, such as prison guards, have their own rules covering confidentiality. But I don't think a prison guard would be covered by HIPAA. A leak by a prison guard would have to be dealt with via other channels.

Thanks for the insights and humouring my curiosity!

Okay, but is there some effective loophole for prisoners then?

"Hey, we as medical professionals can't disclose your health info. But we have to keep these guards around for safety, who will hear everything, and they can say all they want!"

No. The guards would be covered under other rules, just not HIPAA. They would have their own confidentiality rules.

It's within the law for EMS to disclose to the prison staff "He's having a heart attack. We need to move him to a hospital to try to save his life." That would meet the minimum necessary standard to get the patient the care he needs. That disclosure is necessary to get him released from prison so he can be transported to the hospital.

However, if an EMS person was friends with one of the guards and spent a minute or two basically gossiping about the case to one of the guards as a form of socializing, that has nothing to do with getting the patient the care he needs and would be potentially a firing offense.

There shouldn't be a loophole because the guards should be covered by other rules. They just wouldn't be covered by HIPAA per se.

The fact that HIPAA doesn't apply to the guards doesn't mean the guards can do whatever they want. It just means that you would have to discipline them under a different rule or law.

(IANAL. This is not legal advice. It's just my best understanding of HIPAA having worked for an insurance company for a few years, during which time I received annual training for HIPAA.)

Prison rape is treated as a hilarious joke in the US.

Why would you expect strict compliance with some dumb privacy law?

PREA was designed to reduce the number of prison rapes.

Are they a hospital or a covered entity. I don't think HIPAA would apply to a federal lockup. Also death certificates are not covered by HIPAA and can't prevent the release of them. Even if this isn't a death certificate. If anything shady happened it wasn't a hipaa violation. It can still be shady, but not a hipaa violation.

>The story is that someone close to the situation leaked details in violation of HIPPA on an internet message board.

>And from a correctional facility, no less. The whole thing is a mess.

I don't really see the problem here. You can't expect adherence to the law, or even upholding of basic human rights, from a correctional facility in America. Just look at how migrants have been treated lately in "detention centers" (concentration camps).

As the other responder said, prison rape is treated as a hilarious joke in the US, and is condoned by correctional staff, so why would you expect adherence to HIPAA?



This really shows the value of anonymity on the internet. Buzzfeed may try to label 4chan a “haven for far-right trolls and white nationalists” but it’s exactly the type of platform we need right now. It’s at the very least a check on mainstream media, which has proven itself very untrustworthy.

How does this show any of that? That reported by the channer wasn't materially different than what was reported by the mainstream, they just broke the story earlier and, as mentioned, possibly by doing something illegal.

To be clear, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with anonymity on the internet. But anonymity on the internet, this story showing the value of that anonymity, and this relating the the mainstream media aren't at all related, at least in my mind. Mind clarifying?

As I see it, one can be anonymous on, say, twitter, which is still moderated, and therefore has (less) open organization of "far-right trolls and white nationalists". So its not clear to me what unique anonymity 4chan provides.

Nitpick: Twitter doesn’t allow anonymity, all posts are associated with at least a pseudonym.

It’s valuable because you can compare what the media reports to what was posted on 4chan and look for discrepancies. It may also keep the media reporting more honest as they know the story broke on 4chan and deviations will be noticed.

Twitter is an ultra short form platform that has already demonstrated political censorship. It also requires account verification through email and sometimes phone number. I don’t think it compares to 4chan for something like this.

> It’s valuable because you can compare what the media reports to what was posted on 4chan and look for discrepancies.

This only works if you hold 4chan to be more reliable than the media. Given its history (think, like, QAnon) and love of trolling, this doesn't really work. This story was notable mostly because 4chan is notoriously unreliable.

> Twitter is an ultra short form platform that has already demonstrated political censorship.

Right, but you said that anonymity was important, not censorship. Is anonymity important, or is lack of censorship what matters? They're not the same thing.

> This only works if you hold 4chan to be more reliable than the media.

They are both sources of information. One is corporate and politically approved, the other is a complete wild west. Totally different but worth comparing.

> Right, but you said that anonymity was important, not censorship. Is anonymity important, or is lack of censorship what matters? They're not the same thing.

Anonymity and censorship are related. People will self-censor if they can't be anonymous due to legal reasons, social shaming, financial reasons... Almost certainly the person that posted this on 4chan wouldn't if they had to attach their real name to it.

> > It’s valuable because you can compare what the media reports to what was posted on 4chan and look for discrepancies.

> This only works if you hold 4chan to be more reliable than the media. Given its history (think, like, QAnon) and love of trolling, this doesn't really work. This story was notable mostly because 4chan is notoriously unreliable.

IMO, it also works if you view them both as unreliable but in different ways. Them agreeing is a stronger signal of truth than either independently.

I agree.

I keep up with current events mostly through a couple of very popular niche forums, each with a few hundred thousand members. The news posted there is biased, of course, but mostly it's a selection bias. I use it because my interests (if not necessarily my perspective) overlap with those forums' topics. When I find something that piques my interest, then I'll seek out other sources for that particular story.

I spend the majority of my "what's going on in the world?" time on ar15.com - but I don't assume that the stories posted there are accurate. I judge the reputation of the source from which it came, and if it's contentious, I'll purposefully look for alternative reporting.

The bottom line is that no news outlet, "mainstream" or not, is without bias. There are decisions made on what constitutes news and stories are editorialized both explicitly and implicitly.

There was a time when I spent a decent amount of time on 4chan, but the SNR is so low these days and the format is so hard to keep up with that I haven't bothered in years. Instead, I watch secondary sources who are watching the chans.

I haven’t read ar15.com but at first glance my thought was: “Why would you hurt yourself by filling your head with such nonsense instead of just reading all or part of some reputable news service?”

People don’t acknowledge the long-term costs (social or otherwise) of not making the right choice in this area. Spend too much time playing Sam Harris and now your wife is embarrassed to bring you to parties for fear of an outburst about Muslims. Read some other forum and now you’re fixated on weird parts of the news and an oddball narrative. Read an even worse forum and you’re dragged into political radicalization. These things happen everyday and we’re all at risk.

Cut the alarmist nonsense. Anyone like me who has critical thinking skills isn't at risk of political radicalization. And I don't care to be told what the "right" choice is.


You don't have to like something for it to be correct.

Getting your news from ar15.com is not correct in any meaningful interpretation

Who said they "get their news from ar15.com"? I said I keep up with current events through that forum (and others). It serves as an aggregator for political topics for me in much the same way that this site serves as an aggregator for tech topics.

Realistically, I'm more radical than 99% of the members of that site, though in a different way. I'm not at risk of accidentally becoming a stereotypical right-winger.

I use it for a purpose. I'm mostly interested in political news in a few areas, and those areas strongly coincide with what the userbase of that site are interested in. My positions on those areas differ in quite a few ways, but that's OK.

> Spend too much time playing Sam Harris and now your wife is embarrassed to bring you to parties for fear of an outburst about Muslims.

I'm much more at risk of embarrassing my wife through an outburst about the nature of taxation or the base immorality of government as a whole.

It's still unlikely though. She's at least as radical as I am, and a decade ago we decided to have children instead of a social life :)

>It’s valuable because you can compare what the media reports to what was posted on 4chan and look for discrepancies.

Okay but how do you verify the validity of what’s posted on 4chan, a troll site of trolls trolling trolls with troll posts?

You don't. 4chan isn't "valid", it's just another data source. I assume everything posted there is not only false, but a lie specifically crafted by someone very intelligent to mislead me.

That said, when someone posts on 4chan that an event has occurred before news of that event has broken elsewhere, it's reasonable to compare the two. If the 4chan version is largely consistent but includes a couple of details that conflict with the "official" version, then I take that as an indication that maybe something was misreported. It would be folly to assume that the 4chan version was correct, even with the supporting evidence of it being first to break.

Most of those "discrepancies" are just that, and I don't believe are intentional misinformation. Consider a topic for which you're an expert. Any topic. Now look at media coverage of that topic - is it accurate? Of course not. Details are usually wrong, terms and concepts are used inappropriately, and sometimes an article's entire premise is absurd. It makes sense to me that if reporting is that bad for the things I know well enough to know it's bad, it's likely that bad for everything else; I just often don't know enough about the topic to realize it.

99% is memes, random boards, or hate/bigotry/odd. The platform we need right now is proper enforcement of whistleblower protections.

Mainstream media is 30% Fox, by viewership, with most traditional publishers remaining trustworthy in most reporting. 4chan/8chan ties in with Daily Caller types too often to be of any value 99.9% of the time.

Unfortunately, news that associates culture with alt-right politics have become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many folks don’t want to be associated with the alt-right. Example:

> Pepe, the green frog that has become a mascot for right-wing internet trolls.

Pepe was an ultra popular meme on 4chan when this was originally ran in the news. It is unsurprising that alt-right folks on 4chan were using it, since everyone else was too. But since the news ran, people on social media had to stop using it, lest they be associated with politics they despise; ordinary people who read the news and don’t live on the internet would not know the difference.

I am not keen on 4chan culture but if I had to guess I’d assume that merely posting Pepe on 4chan doesn’t signify political beliefs unless it’s a specific variant with for example, a MAGA hat.

Obviously this is a pretty exploitable pattern.

It's a defining feature of chan culture that anything sourced from a chan is poisoned by nature of it coming from a chan, as chans can willingly change the context surrounding some content.

It used to be the other way around -- content originating on chans would be repeated and posted elsewhere on the internet, and the content itself usually had nothing to do specifically with chan culture. As media began progressively segregating chan culture from the rest of the internet, content from chans signified that the poster was also a user of chans. As the image of chans have evolved from being a place where you can post whatever you want (within legal limits) to being somehow a bastion of a minority political ideology, so too has the content shifted from being relatable by most everyone who uses the internet to being reviled because of it's ties to the sites.

I would not be surprised if a news article came out postulating that Richard Stallman had now become a symbol of the "alt-right"

You know it was the mainstream media (specifically, the Miami Herald) that brought everyone’s attention to the Epstein case in the first place? 4chan never knew anything about him even though all the details of his case were public knowledge.

It was predicted by almost everyone that he would die somehow before revealing whatever information he may have had, so it was not surprising in the least. Further, 4chan is not a secret club -- you go to the site and you can create however many threads you wish, and reply to whoever, however, and however many times you want, no registration or signup process exists, so it's not surprising that Epstein's death, conspiracies of which run rampant on 4chan, would be leaked randomly by someone involved in dealing with the situation, it happens all the time actually.

Read beyond the headline. Specifics about attempts to revive him (including drugs used) were also shared before they were public information.

But also, generic information, as the expert reviewing the post remarked. On the other hand, the apparent correct use of jargon does seem to indicate that the poster could be an EMT themselves.

I don't see what this has to do with what I said. I specifically stated it is not surprising the post was made "..randomly by someone involved in dealing with the situation"

For those that don't read the article, someone posted about the medical response to Epstein's suicide on 4Chan before the news picked it up. A lot of people had access to that information at the time.

So some 4channer was presumably listening to police/EMS scanners for the area of the prison Epstein was in and "got the scoop" that way?

Or the 4chan user was one of the medical staff, EMT, prison guard, prison employee, ambulance driver, anything.

All this is about is a HIPPA violation but I’m not sure why HIPPA would apply when the person is dead. How can you wrong a dead person? Are the dead still guaranteed privacy rights? Seems a bit odd to me.

"The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects the individually identifiable health information about a decedent for 50 years following the date of death of the individual."


Was it during the process of trying to revive him or afterwards? Epstein might be dead now, but by releasing information while doctors were trying to revive him, I believe that would be a violation

Yeah, the idea that a 4chan user would either be a first responder or be listening in on first responder channels isn't particularly surprising. I don't know what implication people are reading into this.

Looking at the screenshot it seems more likely to be someone involved with our adjacent to the attempts.

Not like there's a shortage of 4chan-style people among law enforcement and probably related first responders.

And that was on reddit before buzzfeed found out :P

> We looked at the information provided by [a BuzzFeed News] reporter

Buzzfeed is worried about HIPAA violations. Good thing to worry about in general, but perhaps this is not the best case to champion that cause...

They could look into the type of plea deal he got previously and why he got it. Or, say, comb through all the recently unsealed evidence and compile a spreadsheet of who flew to his island and how often. Now, that would make some good investigative reporting.

Indeed that would offer much more for public good. I don’t see how going after the whistleblower here helps at all.

Buzzfeed is not bound by HIPAA, because they are not medical personnel nor a medical institution.

Sure, but they made sure to investigate this worrying case of HIPAA violation by asking department heads for comments and seeing if they are looking to find the leaker. In other words, amongst all the things to investigate around Epstein that particular one seems like an odd choice.

The media is generally regarded the same when publishing both medical history information and classified materials. If they obtain the information during their regular course of business and report on that obtained material, then they are protected as reporting on a story that is beneficial to the public. If they coerce others or help to obtain protected information, whether classified materials or PHI/PII, then they can be held liable for the release against the existing laws regulating disclosure.

Unclear to me why people seem to think that a major station announcing something that they got (very generally) from some official release makes the same info (obtained some other way) nefarious in nature. Could be as simple as someone at the prison who saw what happened (employee or guard) and relaying it to someone by cell phone. I would find it hard to believe that doing so would break a law that would involve a significant penalty or risk. For that matter even the ME office driver (or whatever was used) might have had early wind of what was going on and relayed it to a third party. Who cares? I am sure they don't sign NDA's for this type of thing.

This was posted on HN yesterday, but was flagged for some reason. Does anyone know why? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20687284

Probably because it's too mainstream, which is actually against the rules (◔_◔)

> Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic.

Also because anybody can flag something for any arbitrary reason, regardless of what the rules say.

Off topic, but on phone the « flag » link is super tiny and close to date (permalink). I have accidentally tapped it while scrolling more often than I realise.

HN users are typically the ones choosing to flag stories. I imagine the usual reason stories like this are flagged are because they attract a lot of discussion in bad faith.

Yeah I’m aware of that, but it was flagged before there was much discussion at all. I would have thought that flagged stories with dozens of upvotes would be looked at by a mod. And given the lack of objectionable comments, I’d have expected the flag to be removed in this case.

Regardless, glad to see this submission gaining steam and generating civil discussion as well.

who cares? Why is this at all surprising or interesting?

so one of the 1st responders has a 4chan account. what exactly is the big deal here (besides the fact he/she probably broke the law)

Not sure if you're aware, but we all "have" a 4chan account. Meaning, you don't need an account to post there. It's kind of the point of chan-like boards.

i was not aware of that. honestly - i have tried to check out the site multiple times but the layout of the conversation is so confusing to me i give up every time.

No one has a 4chan account. Anyone can post.

And this fact was pointed out on 4chan several days ago

I absolutely love that hn doesn’t buy this bs

I can't tell if you're referring to the suicide report it or the idea it was actually a murder.

So is unregulated news the real reason they want the rest of the chans shut down? It seems 4chan at least, already capitulates to all LE demands.

Improbable. Liveleak, Abovetopsecret, WorldStarHipHop, and Twitter (to some extent) all have unregulated news feeds, are pretty popular, and have "in-groups". They all have content moderation to stay on LE's good side and despite hosting violent content, actively try to prune content that violates laws. This includes 4Chan. 8Chan was a different story though, there was almost 0 effort to moderate content. Few people seem to remember a couple of the largest boards on 8Chan for some time were pro-pedophilia boards, and they stayed up for quite some time. Of course, the actual underbelly of those boards were composed of creating and sharing material through other sites and applications, and announcing this through 8chan. They could not take down the board without defeating the purpose of the site, and could not keep it up without voluntarily allowing for a breeding ground for illegal material, so many of their vendors wanted them off their platform for a while because they could not be moderated effectively.

I think it boils down to - can you reasonably catch illegal content being routed through your platform? 4chan, LiveLeak, WorldStar, ATS, and Twitter all have ways of doing this, 4chan's may be more crude because there are certain things you cannot do on 4chan because of the way the site is designed (for instance, webm's with sound are isolated to a few boards, so you lose a channel of communication when posting them outside of those boards, and you cannot upload documents directly except through labyrinthine methods, many users don't want to click a link and be taken to a different site so you lose that population, etc.), but it does the job to LE's standards. Many people hate it, but there is no benefit in taking it down because the culture would simply migrate elsewhere.

Jeffrey Epstein's death was predicted by 50% of the population before officials announced it.

This wasn't a prediction, it was someone saying what happened when it happened before it was reported in the media.

With details of medical treatment that would be administered in the case of a heart attack. Interesting that we have no details of what induced said heart attack.

4chan is basically a million monkeys on typewriters, so it's unsurprising they've managed to predict the death of Epstein. Let's not forget that every man and his dog on reddit and elsewhere immediately predicted this guy would get suicided. It was as predictable as the tide going in and out.

Why is is hard to believe that any of the probably 20 or 30 people involved in managing his death went it 4chan to post about it? There were many people who knew of his death beforehand from jail personnel, prison guards, EMT, hospital nurses, Doctors, other hospital staff.

Why wouldn’t one of them have just broken the news? Frankly I don’t see how it’s worse for them to break the news to 4chan than for the prison to break it to ABC news. He was dead and they announced it. Why does everything have to be “official”?

Because mainstream corporate media has trained us to believe “journalism” consists of a media conglomerate regurgitating official press releases, access journalism, and every now and then some intrepid reporter backed by a multimillion dollar company discovering some scoop.

The idea that regular folks can disseminate true information on their own is very disturbing to a lot of people.

> Why does everything have to be “official”?

Because institutions, like the Bureau of Prison, Fortune 500 companies or your county school district, are responsible for how information is distilled to the public. That is why almost all are concerned about their image and invest heavily into public relations.

If people leaked information all the time from those institutions, then a certain level trust will be lost and could be detrimental.

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