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Click reward: Social media makes it easier for terrorists to achieve notoriety

28 7 7
19.03.2019

THE SHOCKING mass-shooting in Christchurch on Friday is notable for using livestreaming video technology to broadcast horrific first-person footage of the shooting on social media.

In the highly disturbing video, the gunman drives to the Masjid Al Noor mosque, walks inside and shoots multiple people before leaving the scene in his car.

The use of social media technology and livestreaming marks the attack as different from many other terrorist incidents. It is a form of violent “performance crime”. That is, the video streaming is a central component of the violence itself, it’s not somehow incidental to the crime, or a disgusting trophy for the perpetrator to re-watch later.

In the past, terrorism functioned according to what has been called the “theatre of terror”, which required the media to report on the spectacle of violence created by the group. Nowadays, it’s much easier for someone to both create the spectacle of horrific violence and distribute it widely by themselves.

In an era of social media, which is driven in large part by spectacle, we all have a role to play in ensuring that terrorists aren’t rewarded for their crimes with our clicks.

SEE ALSO: Christchurch attacks remind us how toxic politics encourages hate

Performance crime is about notoriety

There is a tragic and recent history of performance crime videos that use livestreaming and social media video services as part of their tactics.

In 2017, for example, the sickening murder video of an elderly man in Ohio was uploaded to Facebook, and the torture of a man with disabilities in Chicago was livestreamed. In 2015, the murder of two journalists was simultaneously broadcast on-air, and livestreamed.

American journalist Gideon Lichfield wrote of the 2015 incident, that the killer: “… didn’t just want to commit murder – he wanted the reward of attention, for having done it.”

Performance crimes can be distinguished from the way traditional terror attacks and propaganda work, such as the hyper-violent videos spread by ISIS in 2014.

Typical propaganda media that features violence uses a dramatic spectacle to raise attention and communicate........

© Asian Correspondent