The ‘gamification’ of domestic terrorism online

The ‘gamification’ of domestic terrorism online


THE SHOOTERS BEHIND THESE EVENTS OFTEN LEAVE SO-CALLED MANIFESTOS– HATE-FILLED ONLINE POSTINGS THEY WANT THE PUBLIC AND AUTHORITIES TO FIND. WE’VE SEEN IT AFTER THE SHOOTING IN CHRISTCHURCH, THE SYNAGOGUE SHOOTINGS IN PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, AND POWAY, CALIFORNIA, AND EVEN YESTERDAY IN EL PASO, TEXAS. THEY APPEAR ON WELL-KNOWN FORUMS AND SPREAD RAPIDLY IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE MURDERS. “NEW YORK TIMES” OPINION WRITER AT LARGE CHARLIE WARZEL COVERS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, AND HE JOINS US NOW VIA SKYPE FROM MISSOULA, MONTANA. IS THIS KIND OF THE NEW THING THAT THEY HAVE TO DO TO HAVE LEGITIMACY IN THEIR COMMUNITIES THAT THEY SPRING FROM?>>WELL, IT CERTAINLY SEEMS THAT THAT SINCE CHRISTCHURCH, THERE’S BEEN A NOTICEABLE UPTICK AND A NOTICEABLE SORT OF PARROTING, UM, AND SORT OF ONE UP… GAME OF ONE-UPSMANSHIP THAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS COMMUNITY, ESPECIALLY IN 8CHAN. UM, IT IS A GROUP OF WHITE NATIONALISTS. MUCH OF THEIR COMMENTARY WAS, UH, YOU KNOW, PREVIOUSLY VERY, UM, TROLL-ISH, SORT OF DEALING WITH, YOU KNOW, DARK IRONY SORT OF UNCLEAR WHAT WAS THEM TRYING TO RILE EACH OTHER UP AND HOW MUCH WAS ACTUALLY REAL. AND OBVIOUSLY WHAT WE’VE SEEN IS THAT THERE ARE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE VERY VULNERABLE TO ALL OF THIS GOADING AND, UH, PERSUASION AND CONSTANT TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, VIOLENT EXTREMISM. AND IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S JUMPING OFF OF THE INTERNET AND AND INTO REAL LIFE WITH GREATER FREQUENCY.>>Sreenivasan: SO HOW IS THAT RADICALIZATION HAPPENING IN THESE FORUMS?>>SO, YOU KNOW, WHEN I GO INTO SOME OF THESE COMMUNITIES AND AND LOOK AT THEM, OFTENTIMES, IT’S JUST A, A MASS OF INFORMATION. IT’S SORT OF POSTED RANDOMLY. THERE’S NO REAL ORGANIZATION TO IT. IT’S ALL ANONYMOUS. YOU HAVE NO IDEA, REALLY, WHO’S POSTING WHAT. SOMETIMES PEOPLE ARE, ARE POSTING AND THEN COMMENTING TO THEMSELVES AT SOMEBODY ELSE. SO IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO GET ANY SENSE OF WHAT THESE COMMUNITIES ARE. BUT REALLY, IN THE PAST TWO YEARS, THERE’S JUST BEEN A DIALING UP OF THE RHETORIC. THIS IS SORT OF ALONGSIDE, YOU KNOW, WHAT WE’RE SEEING IN THE COUNTRY WITH IMMIGRATION DEBATE, WHAT WE’RE SEEING WITH DONALD TRUMP’S RACIST COMMENTS. UM, WHAT WE’RE SEEING WITH THE SORT OF INTENSIFYING AND TOXICITY OF AMERICAN POLITICS. AND THESE FORUMS ARE GETTING MORE AND MORE INTENSE. THE REAL MOMENT THAT SORT OF SEEMED TO CHANGE THINGS IN THESE FORUMS WAS THE CHRISTCHURCH SHOOTING BACK IN MARCH. AND AFTER THAT, THESE COMMUNITIES REALLY SORT OF FOCUSED ON, ON TERRORISM. ON PLANNING THESE SORTS OF THINGS. I WENT TO 8CHAN ON A RANDOM DAY IN MAY THIS YEAR, AND THE FIRST THING THAT I SAW AT THE TOP WAS A DETAILED POST FROM AN ANONYMOUS USER ABOUT THE BEST WAYS TO STAGE A MASS SHOOTING– THE WAYS TO GO FOR, YOU KNOW, THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF KILLS, THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF KILLS OF PEOPLE OF A SPECIFIC IDEOLOGY. IT WAS A, A POST THAT WAS ESSENTIALLY A HANDBOOK FOR TERRORISM, AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IS A DEPARTURE FROM, JUST SAY, A YEAR AND HALF, TWO YEARS AGO. THERE WERE LOTS OF RACIST POSTS. THERE WERE THREATS. THERE WERE CAMPAIGNS TO GO AND HARASS PEOPLE, WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOR. THERE WAS A LOT OF AWFUL TOXICITY, BUT THERE’S BEEN A SHIFT NOW INTO THIS IDEA OF ACTUAL UM, YOU KNOW, VIOLENCE IN, IN COMMUNITY SPACES AND INCITING THAT VIOLENCE IN A WAY THAT THERE’S NOTHING ELSE YOU CAN CALL IT OTHER THAN TERRORISM.>>Sreenivasan: IS THERE A POSSIBILITY THAT THE NOTE LEFT BY THE EL PASO SHOOTER ENDS UP, WELL, FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD, TRIGGERING OR INSPIRING THE PERSON THAT DID THIS IN DAYTON LAST NIGHT.>>I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE CONNECTION IS RIGHT NOW. I THINK IT’S EARLY TO TELL IN TERMS OF CONNECTING EL PASO WITH DAYTON. I DO THINK THE MORE THAT THESE HAPPEN, UM, THE MORE THAT PEOPLE SEE THAT THIS, THIS RHETORIC MOVES FROM THE INTERNET INTO REAL LIFE, THE MORE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE EMBOLDENED. WHAT IS MOST CONCERNING ABOUT THESE, THESE THREE SHOOTINGS– CHRISTCHURCH, POWAY, AND EL PASO NOW, BEING CONNECTED TO THIS MESSAGE BOARD, 8CHAN IS THE, IS THE NOTION THAT THERE… THIS COMMUNITY IS GAMIFYING TERRORISM AND VIOLENCE. THEY ARE TRYING…>>Sreenivasan: EXPLAIN THAT. SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT THERE’S A GAMIFICATION GOING ON ON THESE BOARDS?>>SO IN THESE COMMUNITIES, AFTER CHRISTCHURCH, THERE WAS A, UH, THERE WAS A, UM, A WHOLE BUNCH OF OUTPOURING OF PEOPLE SAYING YOU… THIS SHOOTER GOT A HIGH NUMBER OF KILLS. BASICALLY, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING LIKE, LIKE, LIKE IN A VIDEO GAME. THAT THEY GOT A HIGH SCORE. IN 8CHAN, PEOPLE STARTED REFERRING TO THIS AS THE HIGH SCORE. WHO CAN TOP THE HIGH SCORE? UM, AND SO NOW, WHEN THESE ACTS OF VIOLENCE HAPPENED, PEOPLE ON THESE MESSAGE BOARDS ARE ESSENTIALLY JUST WAITING TO SEE WHETHER OR NOT THEY’VE BEATEN THE LAST ACT OF TERRORISM. WHETHER OR NOT THEY’VE GOTTEN HIGH SCORE. AND THERE’S, YOU KNOW, THERE’S GLORIFYING THOSE WHO DO. THERE’S CHASTISING THOSE WHO DON’T, YOU KNOW, CALLING THEM LOSERS. IT’S REALLY AND TRULY BECOME THIS, UH, THIS. THERE’S NO OTHER WAY TO SAY IT, THIS GAMIFICATION AND IT IS… IT’S NOT INFLUENCED. THERE’S A LOT OF TALK RIGHT NOW ABOUT VIDEO GAMES BEING TO BLAME. IT’S NOT INFLUENCED BY PEOPLE WHO ARE GAMING. THIS IS WHITE NATIONALISM. THIS IS TERRORISM, BUT THERE IS A GAMIFIED ELEMENT TO IT. THERE IS THIS NOTION THAT, UH, THAT YOU CAN YOU CAN GO OUT AND, AND BASICALLY PLAY TO WIN IN SOME GRIM, SICK GAME.>>Sreenivasan: FINALLY, I WANT TO ASK, I MEAN THIS BORDERS ON A FIRST AMENDMENT QUESTION. BUT THERE ARE COMPANIES THAT HOST THESE FORUMS THAT THEY MAKE MONEY OFF OF THESE FORUMS. WHY DOES THE MARKETPLACE NOT CORRECT FOR THAT? IS THERE NO WAY TO DISINCENTIVIZE THE CREATION OF SPACES WHERE THIS KIND OF HATE CAN FESTER?>>THIS IS REALLY, REALLY DIFFICULT PROBLEM, CLEARLY. CLOUDFLARE, WHICH IS ONE OF THE COMPANIES THAT HOSTS A LOT OF THESE WEBSITES AND PROVIDES THE INFRASTRUCTURE TO ALLOW THEM TO RUN, TO PREVENT THEM FROM BEING SORT OF ATTACKED BY INDIVIDUALS AND TAKEN DOWN, UH, THEY HAVE TAKEN ACTION BEFORE. AFTER CHARLOTTESVILLE, THE WHITE SUPREMACIST NEO NAZI WEBSITE THE DAILY STORMER WAS TAKEN DOWN FROM BEING HOSTED BY CLOUDFLARE. THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE THE CASE. CLOUDFLARE HAS, HAS SAID AS RECENTLY AS LAST NIGHT THAT THEY ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST 8CHAN DESPITE THIS LINK, THAT THEY ARE JUST SORT OF A… THEY’RE LIKE THE FEDEX OF THE INTERNET. THEY DELIVER PACKAGES, THEY DELIVER INFORMATION, THEY DON’T OPEN IT UP AND LOOK AT IT. AND THIS IS REALLY DIFFICULT BECAUSE I THINK THERE’S A THERE’S A, A, A REAL MORAL QUESTION THESE COMPANIES NEED TO WEIGH. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, THESE COMMUNITIES ARE VERY RESILIENT. THEY HAVE BEEN KICKED OFF OF… 8CHAN WAS REALLY POPULARIZED BY ANOTHER WEBSITE, 4CHAN, MODERATING SOME OF THE WORST BEHAVIOR OFF THAT PLATFORM. THEY THEN WENT TO 8CHAN. IT’S DIFFICULT TO KNOW IF DELISTING, UNHOSTING SOME TERRIBLE WEBSITE WOULDN’T JUST HAVE THOSE PEOPLE MOVE ELSEWHERE. IT’S, IT’S A VERY DIFFICULT PROBLEM. AND OF COURSE YOU HAVE, YOU HAVE SPEECH ISSUES, BUT I THINK, I THINK WE NEED TO HAVE A VERY BROAD CONVERSATION THAT INCLUDES THE GOVERNMENT, THAT INCLUDES LAW ENFORCEMENT ABOUT WHAT TO DO WITH THE COMMUNITY THAT IS ESSENTIALLY, AND TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES, THAT IS ESSENTIALLY A INCUBATOR FOR TERRORISM. AND AS, UH, AS ONE OF MY PEERS AT NBC SAID, THIS WEBSITE HAS A BODY COUNT ASSOCIATED WITH IT, AND I THINK WE REALLY NEED TO RECKON WITH THAT AND TREAT IT AS AN EMERGENCY.>>Sreenivasan: ALL RIGHT. CHARLIE WARZEL OF THE “NEW YORK TIMES,” JOINING US VIA SKYPE FROM MISSOULA, MONTANA, TODAY THANKS SO MUCH.>>THANKS A LOT.

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