Exposed: The extremist sub-forums that contributed to the radicalisation of the New Zealand Shooter

The terrorist attack in New Zealand has been marked as one of the worst tragedies in the Western World in recent years, however the details of this attack are a damning similarity to other ethno-nationalist and far-right attacks in the past, all revolving around one internet enclave operating out of two hugely popular and extremely controversial internet forums.

The forums in question are known as 4Chan and 8Chan, and the characteristics that have garnered a cultural following among internet-users of almost all walks of life, hobbies, and views are also among their most controversial- complete anonymity for its users.

4Chan and 8Chan do not require users to create an account and identity to converse on their forums, and instead anyone is allowed to freely post information on its various sub-forums, with each post simply being labelled as having been posted by “anonymous”. This has led many to see these websites as a “libertarian utopia” free from biases, both from the government and between individuals. The reality, however, if far from the truth.

While 4Chan is generally known to be the less extreme website of the two, far-right views can still easily be found on the board’s /pol/ sub forum, also known as the “politically incorrect” section of the website. The general pretext for this sub forum is that the majority of posts are in-jokes or intentionally shocking for audiences not affiliated with the general 4Chan community, also known as “shitposting”. However, there is a considerable number of posts, from both anonymous and registered users, that connote that 4Chan’s /pol/ board is significantly less self-aware than it would appear.

One post, sent several days after the Christ-Church Shooting, alludes to a conspiracy theory developed since the attack that the shooting was in some way staged by the now widely defunct Islamic State.

One user, under an account named “Turkishguy” spreads an image which appears to allege that the New Zealand shooter was a member of the so-called Islamic State.

Another post, written on Saturday by an anonymous user, citicizes the New Zealand Shooter for not “eliminating” the right people, instead referring to an anti-Semitic right-wing conspiracy theory that governments are being influenced by “subversive zionists”. Another anonymous user responding to the post refers to right-wing terrorists as “heroes” and asks whether the actions of them were “in the best interest of the white race”.

Two anonymous users, with one being traced to a US-based IP address, discuss right-wing conspiracy theories. Profanity has been censored.

4Chan and 8Chan is not a difficult website to access. These images were not taken from a closed off internet fringe website, or collected from somewhere within the dark-web, they were collected from a public website which can be accessed from most search engines and from a sub-forum that can be accessed by anyone, regardless of age.

4Chan is one of the largest internet forums in the world, with approximately 1.8 billion posts since it’s creation in 2004, and roughly 1 million posts made each day, with an average monthly view count of 703 million. The /pol/ sub-forum is placed prominently on the website’s front page.

The more recent image board of the two, 8Chan, is generally known for it’s more extreme views within its political sub-forums, and 8Chan is the forum that the New Zealand shooter was known to frequent, and also the website where he first announced his attack while approaching the Christ Church Mosque.

8Chan is where the most extreme white-supremacist views can be found, including numerous posts portraying the New Zealand attack as a “heroic sacrifice” and listing ways to “honor” the Christ-Church Shooter.

Profanity has been censored, as have terms or links distributing right-wing material.

The data analytics website SimilarWeb has estimated 8Chan’s monthly traffic to be around 14-16 million views, with around half of the site’s views coming from America. The third highest country in terms of proportional viewer count is the UK, with around 5% of the site’s traffic taken up by UK registered computers. All images included in this article have been taken from the front pages of both political sub-forums at the time of writing.

Would these messages have been posted if 4Chan and 8Chan required its members to attach an account and identity? Probably not, many social media websites, such as twitter and facebook allow its users to hide behind fake account names, including the social media accounts of the New Zealand Shooter himself, who’s accounts were under a pseudonym, and the phenomenon of twitter and facebook “trolling” has been widely publicised in recent years.

Numerous media outlets have reported on the toxicity and potential for extremist content of both 4Chan and 8Chan, such as Vice back in 2016, however legislation on these forums has been sparse, and many countries are yet to enact any meaningful legislation against 4Chan and 8Chan and its use by citizens.

BREAKING: Far-Right Leading Brexit March in London

Roads are set to be closed in central London, in preparation for a march led by Brexiteers – dubbed the ‘Brexit Betrayal March’. The Metropolitan Police are also preparing to close local bars and pubs in an attempt to minimise potential disorder in central London.

Tommy Robinson, prominent supporter of the demonstration, issued a warning to the Prime Minister. He said: ‘Revolution is coming’ and encouraged the Prime Minister to ‘take note’ of the frustration across the United Kingdom – with regards to the alleged betrayal of Brexit.

Supporters have claimed that their movement is comparable to the ongoing social upheaval in France. But, from the comments posted online it appears that their frustration does not focus on austerity and poverty in the United Kingdom – which are the primary concerns of the gilet jaunes in France.

One man wrote: ‘I would rather die on my feet fighting, than on my knees bowing down to the EU and Islam’. These examples of far-right rhetoric have increasingly come under intense criticism, with many planning to oppose the march later today.

A counter-demonstration has also been arranged, with many distancing themselves from the rhetoric espoused by Tommy Robinson and UKIP. The counter-demonstration has attracted the support of prominent individuals, including John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor.

Mr. McDonnell said: ‘A newly energised, well-funded network of hate is emerging, from Steve Bannon in the US to the former EDL [English Defence League] leader Tommy Robinson at home, and it threatens the very fabric of our nation. The Labour movement must be front and centre in opposing them’.

Laura Parker, National Coordinator for Momentum, said in a statement that: ‘I think that the threat from the far right is now obviously so huge, however, that there has to be a peaceful mobilisation by pretty much everybody, from trade unions to party members and others.’

Owen Jones, campaigner and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, has been rallying support for the counter-demonstration which he is also set to attend later today, details of which can be found here.

Updates will follow throughout the day..

Comment from Thomas Howard, Editor at TPN:

Divisive rhetoric is continuing to disseminate throughout the United Kingdom. There are growing calls for a ‘People’s Vote’, but these calls have angered some of those who voted ‘Leave’ in the 2016 Referendum.

It is essential that these divisions are healed, if not we can expect more frustration from members of the public – in the form of demonstrations.

Regardless, it appears that the current proposals outlined by Theresa May have caused widespread anger throughout the country and these proposals are set to be rejected by the House of Commons on Tuesday.