The shooter in Buffalo reportedly posted his manifesto describing his plans on the site 4chan, an accessible part of the Dark Web that attracts some of the worst theories and conversations online. It harbors hate and dangerous activities, like the shooting.
Millions of users flock to the site daily to post and read comments and ideas.
“They are looking for some sort of community, or like-mindedness,” said Dr. Kasey Thompson, associate professor at Ferris State University.
4chan is a forum and website with so many offensive posts and conversations that it’s hard to show on television. But millions of people use it every day, to talk about anything and everything, including plans for mass shootings.
“To find the sense of community that is is is so negatively rooted, that they don’t want to have conversations that anyone else can see, that they are afraid of being outed, that they were concerns of repercussions of what they say and do,” said Thompson, “When you get to that level of belonging, your discussions should send up red flags for everyone.”
Users are anonymous, protected from the words and theories they put out. More and more of the mass shooters we see are found to be users on these sites.
“This information that we’re trying to protect them against has nothing in comparison to what they’re actually learning,” said Thompson, “What they’re learning isn’t necessarily based on truth, it’s just based on whatever day, that meme, or the information is. The hate du jour.”
As much as they like to stay in their bubble, they also have a message they want to share.
“If it’s limited only to the people who are on that particular platform, then their message doesn’t get out,’ said Jeff Swartz, professor at WMU Cooley Law School, “So they have to make themself available to people that they want to have hear it.”
The fight against these sites and forums is nearly impossible, stop one and three more pop up. Using the shield of Free Speech to slow down those fighting against them.
“There’s one thing to have freedom of speech,” said Thompson, “But then there’s another thing to have so much of the horrific and illicit type of exchanges that are happening.”