Internet culture harbors violent behavior

As we move through an age when what we see the internet has tangible effects on the real world, it’s important to keep in mind that internet hatred is real hatred and should be taken seriously.

The March 15 terrorist attacks on the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, opened up an unfortunate dialogue about the ways internet culture can act as a catalyst for hateful ideologies and acts of violence.

During Jumu’ah, or Congregational Prayer, Friday, a 28-year-old Australian man killed 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, after posting a 74 page anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant manifesto to social media, laden with references to memes and other internet jargon. He also livestreamed the lead-up and execution of the first attack on Facebook.

Both the manifesto and link to the livestream were posted on 8Chan, an online forum filled to the brim with right-wing extremist memes and white supremacy forums. In this online community, the shooter’s ideologies were supported, allowing him to feel enabled to act on desires to commit violence.

“Time to stop sh*tposting and time to make a real-life effort,” the perpetrator wrote in his post on the website, the word “sh*tposting” presumably referring to memes and other seemingly nonsensical posts on the site that harbor hateful rhetoric.

This is not the first instance wherein the perpetrator of a mass shooting was inspired by an online community of similarly disgruntled forum-posters. The 22-year-old man who killed six and wounded 14 others in May 2014 at the University of California in Santa Barbara frequented “incel” forums on Reddit and 4Chan. He also posted a lengthy manifesto on the internet prior to the shooting, as well as a YouTube video of him explaining his intent to deliver “retribution” to women for rejecting him over the course of his life.

While these two shootings were each carried out by only one person, hateful online communities aren’t blameless in these scenarios. The internet often fosters environments where echo chamber thinking allows people to feel justified or supported in their hateful ideologies.

During the livestream posted by the perpetrator on Facebook, the shooter said, “Subscribe to Pewdiepie,” a Youtuber who’s gotten heat in the past for Islamophobic, racist and anti-semitic comments.

Youtubers and internet celebrities have major influence in this day and age, and we need to be aware of the way harmful internet rhetoric can have real-world consequences.

Phillip Arps shared the livestream of the mosque shootings and he was charged with two counts of distributing the video. He is a prime example of the internet culture that propigates and spreads hateful and violent acts.

The jury appears to be out on whether or not internet platforms share the responsibility of the damage done when it comes to violence inspired by or posted on online platforms. Facebook removed the livestream of the first shooting, and Google even went as far as to remove 8Chan from its search engine.


Regardless of who is to blame and who is not, we can all ensure we remain blameless by remembering that “supporting” violence takes many forms — the act of simply seeking out livestreams of shootings and manifestos of perpetrators sends a message of encouragement to those who may someday think to commit atrocities. Defending influential people who express Islamophobic or otherwise hateful views does the same.


Nothing exists in a vacuum: Islamophobia, racism and sexism aren’t contained to the dark corners of the internet where like-minded people bond over their hatred of minority groups. Memes that pop up on your Facebook feed and discussion board posts made by angry, faceless entities have human beings behind them, and the way we respond to hateful rhetoric online has a direct impact on how this rhetoric manifests itself in the real world — in worst case scenarios, with gruesome, unspeakable violence.