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Online Hate Can Lead to Real-World Violence

Online hate can and, too often, does result in real-world violence against the Jewish and other at-risk communities.  

Murderer Robert Bowers posted false and antisemitic statements on the social media page Gab, including racist language targeting Jews and conspiracy theories alleging Jewish control over immigration. In October 2018, he posted a rallying cry to white supremacists against Jews, ending with: “Screw the optics, I’m going in.” With that, he entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered eleven people at prayer. Their ages ranged from 54 to 97. [1] 

The Poway synagogue shooting took place only months later, in April 2019. Shortly before the attack, John T. Earnest posted a deeply antisemitic manifesto on 8chan, a social media channel where he had been radicalized.  The shooter thanked the online community for their support. Another 8chan user responded to his post with the words “get the high score, by which he meant kill a lot of people. [2] Earnest murdered a 60-year-old woman and injured three other people. 

Similarly, the deadly shootings at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 (killing 51) and at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas in August 2019 (killing 22) were both announced beforehand and celebrated afterwards on 8chan. [3]  

Conspiracy theories and online hate lead to radicalizationand to real-world violence, which ultimately hurts us all. 

[1] ‘Screw the optics, I’m going in’: Alleged synagogue shooter posts on social media moments before massacre

[2] 8chan, a nexus of radicalization, explained // Ignore The Poway Synagogue Shooter’s Manifesto: Pay Attention To 8chan’s /pol/ Board // Poway synagogue shooting suspect linked to anti-Semitic internet manifesto 

[3] Three mass shootings this year began with a hateful screed on 8chan. Its founder calls it a terrorist refuge in plain sight 

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