News & Opinion | March 15, 2019 9:26 am

49 Killed in New Zealand Mass Shootings Designed to Go Viral on Social Media

An alleged shooter posted a live link to the shooting on an internet messageboard.

New Zealand shooting
Gunmen who targeted crowded mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch killed at. least 49 people, police said, (LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Horrific shootings at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday have left 49 people dead and are garnering exactly the type of widespread coverage it appears the shooters were aiming for.

While several people have been arrested so far, the shooters appear to have leveraged social media ahead of the deadly attacks to ensure as many people as possible knew the attacks were happening.

A 17-minute video that seemed to show the shooting was posted to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, The Verge reported, and a post on 8chan, a messageboard, included links to a manifesto and a Facebook page where the poster — an alleged shooter — said a livestream of the attack would be broadcast. Facebook has since removed the page and the link to the video, but the footage was still able to spread.

“Remember, lads, subscribe to Pewdiepie,” someone assumed to be a shooter can be heard in the video, said, referencing popular YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, who has a history of promoting anti-Semitism, according to The Verge. Kjellberg’s channel currently has the most subscribers on YouTube with 89 million.

“I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person,” Kjellberg said in response on Twitter, effectively spreading the fervor of the internet to try and find the video. But Kjellberg’s position is unenviable, as The Verge wrote, because “if he hadn’t disavowed the shootings immediately, it’s possible someone would have suggested his channel was somehow an inspiration to the killer or killers. But it’s also clear that if any of his many followers had missed the shootings, they were now aware of them.”

The 73-page manifesto alleged to have been written by the gunmen used language referencing “white genocide,”  a Neo-Nazi conspiracy theory, and the “14 words,” a white supremacist slogan. it contains multiple references to the U.S. Constitution, according to The Verge, specifically the Second Amendment — the right to bear arms.

New Zealand police are warning local residents to avoid mosques and told religious leaders at the holy buildings to “shut their doors.”