The shooter who killed at least 10 people at a community college in Oregon may have declared that he was about to do it in a post on online forum 4chan.
Federal law enforcement officials are now investigating the thread, according to the New York Times.
The first post in the thread reads: “Some of you guys are alright. Don't go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest.”
It is posted next to a picture that is part of the “Pepe the Frog” meme — a cartoon animal used as a reaction picture on 4chan and across the internet — holding a gun.
The comments that follow are a mixture of encouragement, discussion and criticism.
Some people even offer practical suggestions about how best to carry out a mass murder without being caught or disarmed. Some suggest that the poster “enter a classroom and tell people that you will take them as hostages. Make everyone get in one corner and then open fire”.
After some time, the thread becomes dormant. But it is picked up again when details of the killings hit the news, with a quick flurry of excited postings about the fact that the killing had been carried out.
As many have noted, the anonymous and fast-moving nature of 4chan means that the threat might not be credible, and that officials may never be able to know whether there was a connection between the shooting and the thread. But that same anonymity, as well as the often extreme nature of the message board, also means that it can be viewed as a safe haven for the discussion of such acts.
Police have identified the shooter as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, who was not a student at Umpqua Community College where the shooting took place.
If the Oregon shooter was a participant on 4chan, it won’t be the first time that online threads have been part of the investigation into a mass killing. The Isla Vista killer Eliot Rodger was reportedly actively involved in forums that circulated misogynistic and hateful comments towards women, before later posting videos warning of the attack alongside manifestoes on YouTube.
There are references to the Isla Vista killings within the 4chan thread. One posts a picture of Rodger next to the message: “It takes a great man to do great things. Become Legendary.”
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