Do Image Boards Like 4chan and 8chan Entice Mass Shootings?

Whenever there is a mass shooting incident – such as the ones in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio from this past weekend – there’s a lot of people asking “why?” Why did it happen? Why would someone do that? For some people, and indeed some incidents, the “who, what, when, and why?” of the matter all come down to one of two websites; 4chan and 8chan.

These two image boards have built up quite the reputation for being safe havens for extremists and white supremacists. 4chan has become notorious for their /pol/ board, where far-right extremists gather to discuss news, politics, and opinions. While this could facilitate the kind of racist beliefs that fuel mass shootings, there’s no denying that 8chan has been involved in mass shootings. The website has been connected to three different incidents, including the El Paso shooting. The gunman allegedly posted their manifesto to the site. 8chan was also involved with the shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California.

8chan was founded by Fredrick Brennan, who started the website in response to what they felt was 4chan becoming more restrictive. Brennan wanted to create a place where people could discuss anything they wanted, with complete freedom speech. Little did he expect what this would lead to though. Brennan himself has called for the website to be shut down. He posted a tweet explaining why people choose 8chan to post their manifestos, saying it’s because:

  1. A receptive, sympathetic audience is there and will help spread the manifesto
  2. 8chan has a morbid record of success for maximum spread of mass shooting manifestos.
  3. Moderation is, and has always been, lax to non-existent.”

8chan is definitely connected to the shooting, but it’s hard to blame the website entirely for it. The website gave the shooter an outlet and allowed them to spread their hate, but who’s to say that they wouldn’t have done this anyway? At the end of the day, people are responsible for their own actions.

If the shooter, or indeed any shooter, was radicalized by the content on 4chan and 8chan, then that is a problem. For the most part, the far-right contingents of the website are a small minority that keep to themselves. At least, that’s the case for 4chan. Users are banned for posting racist and vile rhetoric outside of /pol/, but those things are still welcomed there.

These image boards are giving mass shooters an audience. They are allowing them to spew their rhetoric and their racist opinions, and the users there may indeed be inciting other mass shootings. At the end of the day though, the only ones responsible for the mass shootings are the people who pull the trigger.

Image boards don’t kill people. The internet doesn’t kill people. Video games don’t kill people. Movies don’t kill people. TV shows don’t kill people.

People kill people. And it needs to stop.

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