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New Zealand shooting inquiry finds shooter was radicalized on YouTube

It wasn't 8chan.

 

Libby Cohen

Tech

Published Dec 8, 2020   Updated Dec 8, 2020, 11:11 am CST

An inquiry into the Christchurch massacre found the gunman was radicalized on YouTube before killing 51 Muslim worshippers in 2019.

The New Zealand government created a commission to look into the country’s first mass shooting in the 21st century. The report, published on Monday, includes research on the shooter, recommendations, and information about those impacted. The 792-page report says the mass shooter became violent after research on YouTube.

“What particularly stood out was the statement that the terrorist made that he was ‘not a frequent commentator on extreme right-wing sites and YouTube was a significant source of information and inspiration,’” Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, said according to the Guardian.

Arden says she plans on discussing these findings with YouTube. In a statement, YouTube pledged to work with her.

“We’ve made significant progress in our work to combat hate speech on YouTube since the tragic attack at Christchurch. In the summer of 2019 we strengthened our hate speech policy which has resulted in the termination of channels mentioned in the report, and led to a 5x spike in the number of hate videos removed from YouTube. We’ve also launched changes to our recommendations systems to limit the spread of borderline content,” the company said in an announcement.

While the gunman frequented several far-right corners of the internet, the report found he used YouTube the most. Specifically, he used the platform to prepare his firearms for the event.

YouTube has been criticized for an algorithm that pushes viewers towards violent content which tends to get more views.

The domestic terrorist also used Facebook to discuss ideas from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and post Islamophobic content in a group called “The Lads Society Season Two,” according to the report.

In addition, his manifesto was posted to 8chan, a far-right messaging board, just before he entered the first mosque. The post included a Facebook link to the live stream of the event. The video would find its way onto YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram as well.

The report also looked at how the mass shooting could have been prevented on a government level. It found that security agencies were “almost exclusively” monitoring threats from Islamic terrorist organizations. The shooter was a 28-year-old white man from Grafton, New South Wales, Australia.

Despite shortcomings, the report concludes that the government could not have stopped the attack.

Not everyone is pleased with these findings. The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, in a response to the report, said the commission failed to note how the government ignored what they saw as an imminent eruption of alt-right and anti-Muslim sentiment.

“By 2017 IWCNZ had become gravely concerned with the level of Islamophobia and alt right activity and had a sense of urgency that action at a national level needed to be taken to protect and support the Muslim community,” the organization wrote. “…Yet almost nothing was in place by the time of the mosque shootings.”

IWCNZ said it “made intense efforts to engage with the New Zealand government” five years before the mass shooting that took members of its community.

The report offers recommendations to be better prepared in the future. Suggestions include improving communication among agencies, addressing gun laws, and creating a welcoming environment for all.

Immediately following the shooting, New Zealand banned military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles as well as launching a ministry for ethnic communities.

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*First Published: Dec 8, 2020, 10:40 am CST