From the Web to Real LifeThe Growing Threat of Online-Bred Right-Wing Extremism

The gunman who killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand is being celebrated by right-wing extremists around the world, including in Germany. It is a sign of how the internet has forged a new kind of terrorist threat, and an increasingly emboldened network of radicals. By DER SPIEGEL Staff

Mark Mitchell/ REUTERS

At around 1:30 p.m. on a recent Friday afternoon, some people on 8chan, an online message board, watched a mass murder unfold. Brenton Tarrant had just announced he would carry out a deadly attack and stream it live on Facebook. The first fans quickly voiced their support. “Good luck,” one user wrote; another: “Sounds fun.” A third person wrote that it was the “best start to a weekend ever.” When Tarrant’s head-mounted camera showed him murdering the first person at the entrance to the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand — someone who had just greeted him kindly — a fourth person wrote, “Holy fuck nice shootin.”

Around 200 Facebook users watched through their smartphones, tablets or computers as the 28-year-old got out of his car, opened his trunk where he kept his weapons, and began killing 50 people in and around two mosques. His victims included children, like the 3-year-old Mucad Ibrahim; students, like the 14-year-old Sayyad Milne; men, like the father Khaled Mustafa, and women, like Husne Ara Parvin, who was gunned down while trying to protect her wheelchair-bound husband.

A mass killing of Muslims, documented in real time, filmed in the style of a first-person-shooter video game and cheered on like a football match. “This is how we win,” a fifth person wrote. It’s hard to imagine a greater contempt for humanity.

None of the 200 users flagged the video to Facebook, and thousands of people have watched the livestream after the fact. The social network, whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, likes to brag about the tens of thousands of moderators on its payroll who constantly monitor content, didn’t notice anything at first. Facebook didn’t receive the first notice until 12 minutes after the livestream ended. The company said it had removed 300,000 copies of the video within the first 24 hours and that its automated filters had blocked a further 1.2 million copies from being uploaded. But as with any data that’s shared quickly and widely via the internet, the expungement wasn’t entirely successful. If someone really wants to, they can still find the video online.

‘Propaganda of the Deed’

Brenton Tarrant achieved his goals. He garnered worldwide attention. He left behind 17 minutes of horror. And when it was all over, he received online respect and adoration from people who shared his views. These kinds of people live all around the world, including in Germany, and they don’t even attempt to hide their glee over the death of Muslims.


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