On December 5th, 2007, an anonymous user posted on 4chan's "/b/ - random" board with the following message:"Later today, I'm going to bring my rifle to the Von Maur department store at Westroads mall, Omaha, Nebraska to try to beat Cho's high score.
I'm going to go out in style"
"Cho" was the Virginia Tech shooter who murdered thirty-three people and injured twenty-three others. Whether fellow 4channers thought he was serious or not, they encouraged him to go through with his plans. The anonymous poster later turned out to be 20 year-old Robert Hawkins. After making the post on 4chan, he left a note that said "I'm a piece of shit; now I'll be famous" and made a phone call to a family friend. Then, Robert went to the mall and opened fire, killing eight people and seriously wounding five others before killing himself.
This would not be the last time 4chan encouraged someone to commit mass murder. On the 30th of September, 2015, another anonymous poster on 4chan's "/b/ - random" board posted a similar message:
Less than 24 hours after the post, a man opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Thirteen people were killed and dozens were injured. It was reported that the shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian. If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs.
Today, 'The Daily Wire' has announced it will no longer publish the names and photographs of mass shooters in order to disincentivize those alienated from their peers from seeking deadly attention:As Professor Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy of Western New Mexico University found in a paper presented to the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in 2016, “media contagion” can help make mass shootings more common. “Unfortunately,” said Johnston, “we find that a cross-cutting trait among many profiles of mass shooters is desire for fame.” The rise of such a trait in mass shooters, she claimed, rose “in correspondence to the emergence of widespread 24-hours news coverage on cable news programs, and the rise of the internet during the same period.” Johnston recommended a media pact to “no longer share, reproduce, or retweet the names, faces, detailed histories or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in one to two years.”
I am personally very glad to see 'The Daily Wire' making this decision and I hope CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and others will step up and create such a media pact. This latest shooting, the incident which occured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is yet another example of a kid going on a killing spree for what appears to be an issue of social isolation. And while the facts are not yet entirely in on the Parkland shooter, we do know from early reports that he was obsessed with race. We've seen this before. It would not surprise me if he was a common lurker on 4chan's "/pol/ - politically incorrect" board.
We should focus our efforts on getting the media on board with refusing to make celebrities out of monsters. And on top of this, we should make sure the current owner of 4chan, Hiroyuki Nishimura, is reporting these kinds of posts to authorities and banning users who encourage others to do harm.
There is precedent for this kind of self-censorship working in other areas. Vienna had an epidemic of subway suicides which were exacerbated by sensationalist reporting. The more they were reported, the larger the number of copycat incidents. Finally, they implemented strict reporting guidelines and the rates dropped considerably. In recent years, local authorities have also decided to stop reporting on deaths in Aokigahara, Japan's so-called "suicide forest" with the goal of preventing future suicides. In New Zealand, it is illegal to graphically describe how someone committed suicide because it places vulnerable people at risk. Knowing this, is it not insane to graphically describe how teenagers were murdered on cable television?
Demand that news networks stop indulging murderers' desires. It could save lives.