Oregon Shootings prayer public message
The FBI is now investigating messages posted on anonymous messaging board 4chan prior to the Oregon shootings. Are internet trolls to blame for egging the shooter on? Reuters

US federal law enforcement officials are analysing a suspicious thread posted on controversial anonymous imageboard website 4chan that they believe is linked to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on 1 October.

Gunman Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, killed 10 people and injured seven before he was fatally wounded by the police during an exchange of gunfire.

And while President Obama and other lawmakers will face a renewed debate over gun control laws, another key aspect of this tragic case should be explored – did the comments of internet trolls on 4chan encourage and spur Harper-Mercer into committing this grievous crime?

'Don't go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest'

4chan posts on Oregon Shooting
The anonymous thread on 4chan warning users not to go to school in Northwest America on 1 October 4chan

At 12.19am ET (5.19am BST) on 1 October, an anonymous user posted a graphic showing a cartoon frog holding a pistol and the following ominous message on 4chan (archived here):

Anonymous Thu 01 Oct 2015 00:19:01 No.22785073

Some of you guys are alright. Don't go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest.

happening thread will be posted tomorrow morning

so long space robots

When asked by the other posters for more information, the same user replied: "Will post again in am, 10 min countdown. Won't say more to much to prepare."

Although the user did not give any more details or explain exactly why people living in Northwest America (where Oregon is located) shouldn't go to school, within 14 minutes another user had posted a grim message giving the original poster advice on how to conduct a school shooting.

Anonymous Thu 01 Oct 2015 00:33:10 No.22785448 Report

I suggest you enter a classroom and tell people that you will take them as hostages. Make everyone get in one corner and then open fire.

Make sure that there is no way that someone can disarm you as it is possible. I suggest you carry a knife on your belt as last resort if someone is holding your gun.

An anonymous user responded to this post, writing simply: "Thanks. Keep me in your prayers."

Since 4chan is by its nature a website where anyone in the world can post and say anything they like, it's not yet known whether the original poster in this thread was indeed Harper-Mercer, or whether the thread was a coincidence or posted by someone who knew of the shooter's plans.

Numerous users egged the original poster on

After the post at 12.33am, there is no indication that the original poster was still responding to the thread, however numerous anonymous users began popping up on the thread, posting their messages of support to the user and encouraging them.

Anonymous Thu 01 Oct 2015 00:39:20 No.22785597 Report

You might want to target a girls school which is safer because there are no beta males throwing themselves for their rescue.

Do not use a shotgun. I would suggest a powerful assault rifle and a pistol or 2x pistols. Possibly the type of pistols who have 15+ ammo

Anonymous Thu 01 Oct 2015 00:45:43 No.22785747 Report

Quoted By: >>22786322

do it op the chads deserve it, also shout r9k memes while pumping lead to normies

Anonymous Thu 01 Oct 2015 01:00:17 No.22786115 Report

>>22785073 (OP)
You're only shooting college age students, correct? I have grandparents that live up there.

Anonymous Thu 01 Oct 2015 01:17:13 No.22786578 Report

make the normies pay
also don't forget to leave your mark like screaming reeee when you do it

Anonymous Thu 01 Oct 2015 00:49:27 No.22785850 Report

If you are suicidal and hate people then do it. If not then stay away from what will ruin your life.

Some users didn't believe that the original poster would go through with the shooting, some told him not to do it, but overwhelmingly, many users seemed to think it was time for a "Beta Uprising" and that he or she should "stir the pot".

What is the Beta Uprising?

What is 4chan?

4chan - the birthplace of the meme, Anonymous and cyber-bullying

4chan is a very simple, basic imageboard website that has over 20 million viewers a month. It was created by Christopher Poole in 2003 and is the birthplace of the hacktivist collective Anonymous as well as the playful trend of internet memes.

However, because it is mostly uncensored and anyone can post anonymously, it has also seen a huge amount of unsavoury activity as well, such as being the place for hackers to post nude photos stolen from Apple's iCloud and leaked from Snapchat, as well as a base from which internet trolls can conduct anonymous cyberbullying campaigns against people they know in real life.

For an in-depth explanation of 4chan, check out our explainer What is 4chan? A Look at the Dark Side of the Internet.

Many of the posters kept mentioning the phrase "Beta Uprising", with some users asking whether they could join in, while others said they were happy to stay at home and watch it on the news.

According to a thread on Reddit, the term Beta Uprising refers to people who see themselves as being socially awkward, unattractive, shy, not popular with mainstream society or deviant in some way (the "Betas") rising up and "rebelling against the society that they believe makes their lives difficult because they're ostracised or don't have success with women by shooting random people, usually people more attractive and popular than them".

The Columbine High School massacre in 1999 may have started the trend off, but it is common for 4chan users to joke about shooting up public places:

"Over the years 4chan has, inadvertently, attracted some people who suffer from actual mental illness and are not playing a character or trying to get a laugh. This odd play has continued, in perpetuity, since 2004 and has sparked some very brilliant (nearly all memes and social websites owe their funny content to 4chan) creations and very dark occurrences. 4chan users have encouraged, joked about, and even enacted very disturbing atrocities over the years," wrote Reddit user GGGh0st.

"This has caused a running joke to be coined, the "beta uprising", wherein the betas would rise up and shoot up public places to cast down the "normies" (functioning members of society) and chads and stacies (attractive, well adjusted socialites).

"Contrary to what Jezebel, Reddit, Fox news, and other fringe far-right, far-left news sources would have you believe, this has nothing to do with politics. There is no underlying misogyny, political zeal, religious or atheist drive. There is no grand, overarching theme or logical goal. This is pure, unadulterated chaos."

Why do so many young people become internet trolls?

Zoe Quinn is a female game developer who was one of the very first targets of the Gamergate cyberbullying campaign against people advocating for better treatment of women in video games that rocked the internet in August 2014.

Zoe Quinn video game developer
Zoe Quinn, developer of Depression Quest, was subjected to an online harassment campaign which was one of the catalysts for the 'GamerGate' debacle. Ppe.pl

Recently in an interview with The Verge, she explained that she had once been a nerdy, awkward teenager who didn't have any friends, and she now recognised she had once been as misguided and chaotic as some of the posters we're seeing on 4chan.

Quinn said that like many other users, she insulted other people online as a way of bonding, and that many of these users feel like they are heroes for speaking out, almost "like some kind of crappy internet Batman", and that it was difficult to break out of this type of behaviour when it was enforced by her friends online.

At the XOXO Festival in Portland, Quinn and several other speakers called on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to do more to prevent harassment.