Comment An Australian who murdered dozens in New Zealand on Friday livestreamed the deaths on Facebook, spinning a spotlight onto the abject failure of social media to control harmful content.
The 28-year-old shooter, whose name isn't worth publishing, fired on defenseless people attending prayers at two Christchurch mosques, killing 50 and injuring dozens of others.
Disturbingly, the killer livestreamed his actions on Facebook, capturing in horrific detail the murders in a 17-minute video that was designed to go viral, and which was re-shared by miscreants countless times after the original was taken down.
It became immediately apparent that his actions were, in part, the by-product of online radicalization resulting from right-wing hate speech that is particularly prevalent in the United States. To be clear, while he was heavily influenced by white nationalism in the West, this murderous racist knew exactly what he was doing when he pulled the trigger: there is no room for any absolution on his part.
The shooter appeared to have spent as much time planning for the social media impact of his actions as the actual actions themselves. He wrote a "manifesto" that is replete with memes and social media references, and steeped in internet culture.
He opened multiple social network accounts in order to promote his actions, including posting pictures several days ago of the weapons he used, replete with eye-catching symbols and the names and places of previous mass shootings. He posted some of this material on LinkedIn-for-pedophiles 8chan several days prior to the shooting, uploading his "manifesto" and outlining his intentions.
The manifesto is itself indicative of the broken online culture of nihilistic offensiveness, outrage, and scattergun ideologies that has grown up around social media and lapped up by subnormal losers. The document leaps from topic to topic, with the only apparent connection being that each was designed to offend.
It frequently adopted a jokey, self-aware tone that makes light of extremely serious and deeply offensive views and opinions – which is itself a manifestation of the failure by social media giants to impose effective content controls while allowing for rapid widespread anonymous posting. The obscene rapidly loses its shock value when viewed repeatedly.
The greatest indicator of an abject failure on the part of social media companies – Facebook, Google's YouTube, and Twitter primarily – to properly police the content that they make billions of advertising dollars from annually, content such as the footage of the mass murder he recorded.
Rather than invest heavily in checks and balances in their outrageously huge publishing platforms, they hired relatively small and ineffective groups of poorly paid contractors to moderate content, while taking home vast profits and issuing easy apologies and condolences after the damage is done. What is going through the executives and engineers' minds? People, with unfettered free access to billions, streaming horrendous crimes and propaganda... on our services?! Wow, we never would have guessed.
Not only did it take an hour for Facebook to remove the livestreamed video, during which time nearly 250,000 people had viewed it, but copies of the video were taken and immediately posted by others on Facebook and YouTube, occasionally with small edits designed to bypass the company's inadequate filtering mechanisms.
To be clear: live video of people being murdered by a white nationalist was readily and easily available to view around the globe for hours after the event.
An unedited and virtually unmoderated publishing platform, watched by billions and plastered with adverts, taken to its logical conclusion.
Social networks then amplified the problem, with a torrent of information – and misinformation – around the shooting. Traditional media outlets, reflecting the desire to capture attention and ad views, continued to pour gasoline on the fire, with some idiotic titles even embedding or linking to the shooting video on their websites.
As we have seen countless times in the past few years, the ready availability of material and entrancing images led to the immediate abandonment of any effort to restrict what content was made available. This, in turn, has created the very attention that the shooter expected and craved and which – let's be clear – makes it an absolute certainty that some other disturbed individual somewhere on the internet will be driven to act just as destructively in future.
The concept of notoriety and online fame has become as important, if not more important, than the actual action such individuals carry out.