Before opening fire on worshippers at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch last Friday, killing 50 and wounding many more, the far-right terrorist who carried out the attack uploaded a post to an anonymous online message board called 8chan.
“Well lads, it’s time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort post,” he wrote, shortly before live-streaming the massacre on Facebook. Then, addressing 8chan’s denizens, he added a request: “Please do your part by spreading my message, making memes and shitposting as you usually do.”
His appeal was heeded by a decentralized, international network of white supremacists and their sympathizers, many of them users of anonymous message boards like 8chan, who proceeded to repost copies of the horrific video to sites like Facebook and YouTube. More than 1.5 million copies of the video were uploaded to Facebook within 24 hours, with 300,000 bypassing its upload filter to appear for users as young as 13 years-old to watch. YouTube did not release numbers, but told the Guardian the uploading was “unprecedented both in scale and speed — at times as fast as a new upload every second.”
The shocking repost campaign illustrated not only the unprecedented reach of online white supremacist networks, but also how they have learned to exploit new tools offered by the large, ill-equipped social media platforms in order to spread messages of hatred online.
The white supremacist ideology espoused by the New Zealand terrorist has been a fringe conspiracy theory for decades, but the Internet has given it unprecedented reach and pushed it into mainstream political discourse. The trend began as early as the 1980s, when white supremacists recognized that they could get around constraints imposed by gatekeepers in the traditional media by posting their own resources on the web.
In the 1990s, new anonymous message boards became spaces where users could post whatever text, images and links they wanted, with no usernames to tie a post to the person posting it. That allowed people to “say disgusting things, post violent and horrible images, link to disgusting videos and blogs, all without any fear that their personal relationships would be disrupted,” says Joan Donovan, a Harvard researcher on white supremacist online networks. “That format really incentivizes some of the worst kinds of behavior and disgusting kinds of content.”
These sites, initially forums populated by privacy-minded, tech-savvy users looking …read more
Source:: Time – Technology