The shootings at two New Zealand mosques that left at least 49 people dead is a tragedy of the age of social media, tailor-made to be shared.
The perpetrator, seemingly motivated by far-right ideology, livestreamed the attack on Facebook, appeared to have posted what is being taken for his “manifesto” on Twitter, announced it on the message board on 8chan, and encouraged people to subscribe to a hugely popular YouTube channel.
This is precisely why extremism and misinformation researchers are warning: Do not participate in spreading the shooter’s message.
At open-source investigation site Bellingcat, journalist Robert Evans notes that on 8chan, the shooter seems to have admitted the tactic himself, saying is had become “time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort post” but urged others to “do their part” by “shitposting.” Here’s how Evans explains it:
Shitposting is the act of throwing out huge amounts of content, most of it ironic, low-quality trolling, for the purpose of provoking an emotional reaction in less Internet-savvy viewers. The ultimate goal is to derail productive discussion and distract readers.
The screed, he writes, is “a clear and brutally obvious example of this technique.”