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How the Christchurch terrorist attack was made for social media



In reality, the entire attack seemed orchestrated for the social media era. Before it took place, a post on the 8chan anonymous bulletin board – a particularly lawless forum that often features post racist and extremists – seemed to predict the horror. It connected to an 87-page poster full of anti-immigration and anti-Muslim ideas and directed users to a Facebook page that hosted the live stream. Even the articles on Twitter seemed to announce the attack.

The attacks took place in the seemingly unlikely place of Christchurch, New Zealand, still struggling to recover after a devastating earthquake that killed thousands of buildings and killed nearly 200 people in 2011. The city's population has dropped dramatically since quell & # 39; event. The exodus was largely reinstated by migrants, many of whom were hired to help rebuild the city. New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said after the shootings that "many of those directly affected" were probably migrants or refugees.

But this attack was much more than the influx to Christchurch. It was about increasing the online white supremacy and the power of social media in spreading that message.

An internet hatred

At first glance, the "poster" of the shooter seems to recall those of the previous white nationalist murderers such as Anders Breivik, an extreme right-wing terrorist who committed Norway in 201

1 attacks. In fact, the writer refers to Breivik.

But this document stands out for being full of sarcastic language, false faults and allusions to online meme culture, suggesting an Internet-driven evolution of nationalist hatred.

  Family members after a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch
In a widely shared article on the Bellingcat website on Friday, journalist Robert Evans notes that the document contains many white supremacist landmarks that are probably accurate representations of the shooter's views.

"But this manifesto is a trap in itself, designed for journalists looking for the meaning of this horrible crime," adds Evans. "It is true in there, and valuable clues to the shooter's radicalization, but he is buried in large part, for lack of a better word, & # 39; shitposting & # 39 ;."

In other words, the whole thing could be described as a great homicidal trolling exercise.

Take another example. Before the attack, the gunman told his online viewers to sign up for the PewDiePie YouTube channel, which has 89 million followers on the platform. PewDiePie, a Swedish game YouTuber whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, has in the past promoted alt-right themes and has drawn criticism for praising an anti-Semitic YouTube channel.

The reference to Kjellberg had a double effect, writes Elizabeth Lopatto on Il Verge. Kjellberg had no choice but to repudiate the Christchurch attacks. "I have just heard news of the devastating New Zealand Christchurch reports, I feel utterly disgusted by the fact that my name was uttered by this person. My heart and my thoughts go to the victims, the families and all those affected by this tragedy ", he posted 17 million followers on Twitter.
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But in diverting potentials Criticism to inspire the atrocity, he is forced to draw attention to it, says Lopatto. If any of his 17 million followers had missed filming before his assignment, they were very aware of it, he writes.

Lee Jarvis, co-editor of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism, states that the Internet has provided people with minority beliefs a space to connect with other like-minded people in a way that can normalize their worldview.

"There are fears that if you have a small number of people with the same ideas, ideas will feel more legitimate and widespread than they really are," says Jarvis.

The fact that the document is soaked with jokes, references and memes of the Internet emphasizes that many white supremacists radicalize socializing among themselves online, he adds.

The poster also sarcastically calculates relatively anodyne video games, such as Spyro the Dragon and Fortnite, causing the extremists to attack, it seems to undermine the popular perception that only the violent game culture has a radicalizing effect.

"I am skeptical that video games play a direct role in terrorist attacks," says Jarvis. "But the populist culture that everyone consumes forms, speaks of their daily life."

The culture of the game was certainly present in the engagement and stylization of the Friday murders – the gun visible in the shot visually resembled the first person Shoot the games.

A tool for terrorists?

Social media has been increasingly co-opted by terrorists in recent years. In 2013, Al-Shabaab militants tweeted the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya. By posting updates while the militants opened fire on buyers, they took control of the story from the media and viewers.

In January 2015, a terrorist who killed four people in a kosher market in eastern Paris recorded the attack on GoPro Camera, according to a US intelligence official. He tried to email the video before he was killed by the police.

"Terrorism is political violence, so terrorists have always needed to find publicity to influence political change," says Adam Hadley, director of Tech Against Terrorism, a group working on behalf of the UN to support the global technological industry in combating the terrorist exploitation of their technologies.

"They want an audience: they will always go where the public is bigger, they could be traditional media or they could be large-scale social media platforms."

  A protester hangs the banners of the multireligi group & # 39; Turn to Love & # 39; during a vigil at the New Zealand House in London.

After Friday's attack, Mia Garlick, a spokeswoman for Facebook New Zealand, said the videos seem to show Christchurch filming from the platform.

"The New Zealand police warned us about a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream started and we quickly removed both the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the shooter and the video," the spokeswoman said.

But, hours after the attacks, CNN could still find videos on social media platforms including Twitter.

Tom Chen, professor of cyber security at the City University of London, notes that the European Commission was pressing social media companies "to suppress terrorist propaganda within an hour". There are threats of possible future fines for non-compliance ", because most of the distribution takes place within the first two hours of uploading a new video," he adds.

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Chen states that platforms like Twitter and Facebook rely on automated software to remove such materials. "If the terrorist's video looks like a video game, it would be very difficult for an automatic classifier to distinguish between that terrorist video and a video game," he says.

For others, the idea of ​​abandoning these technologies or examining them would be a violation of our freedoms.

"This was raised earlier in the debates on the live transmission of suicides," says Jarvis. "On the one hand, companies are responsible for how people use their technology, the other side of the coin is the concern for censorship and who is controlled and how they are controlled."

Technology such as automobiles can also be used by humans to inflict harm against others, Jarvis adds, but laws have been implemented to promote safe use. "It depends on how much risk we are willing to live with."


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