Following the Friday mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, multiple internet service providers (ISP) in the country have blocked access to websites that distribute gruesome content from the incident.
The attacker live-streamed on his Facebook account his actions that got 49 people killed. A link to the video and a lengthy “manifesto” appeared on 8chan forum, allegedly shared by the shooter. Copies of the 17-minute footage spread to other websites, including YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit.
As mainstream platforms struggled to take down the video and segments of it, some websites continue to make the materials available.
Telcos take action
At least three internet companies operating in New Zealand have made this decision voluntarily and enforce it on a temporary basis against sites that still publish the sensitive materials.
Spark NZ, Vodafone NZ, and Vocus NZ agreed to work together to identify and block access to such online locations. 8chan and 4chan are currently unavailable to New Zealanders trying to load them through a connection from the three telcos.
At the moment, visitors trying to get to these forums through Spark NZ, Vodafone NZ and Vocus NZ see the message “The URL has been blocked for security reasons.”
Some users reported that LiveLeak video-sharing platform was also blocked in the region, along with other websites, including file-sharing service Mega.
Confirmed. NZ ISPs are blocking access to #Liveleak, 4chan, 8ch, a certain farm, Mixtape, Mega, and many other sites that are not complying immediately with the takedown orders. https://t.co/eaBJvvRc5E
Even @Bitchute is removing the video mirrors.
— KiTA (@eldarmark) March 15, 2019
The block is not permanent, though. As soon as the horrific content from the Christchurch incident originating from the terrorists is removed, access to the website is reestablished.
“Where material is identified the site is temporarily blocked and the site is notified, requesting they remove the material,” Meera Kaushik, External Communications Advisor at Vodafone NZ, told internetnewsblog, adding that “a number of sites blocked and then unblocked in this way”.
Simon Moutter, Managing Director of Spark NZ, confirmed that his company took the same stance, in an effort to protect children and vulnerable people from the explicit images from the incident.
Update on site blocking 1/2. My cyber security team at Spark has done its best overnight to stay on top of the sites distributing the horrific material from the terrorists. Where they find it, they apply temporary blocks and notify the site, requesting they remove the material.
— Simon Moutter (@simonmoutter) March 15, 2019
Update on site blocking 2/2. Once the material is removed we reopen access. Apologies to any legitimate internet users inconvenienced. This is an extreme situation and as concerned NZers, we decided to help protect our children and vulnerable people from these awful images.
— Simon Moutter (@simonmoutter) March 15, 2019
“We apologise to legitimate internet users who may have been inconvenienced by this, however under the extreme circumstances we believed it was the responsible thing for the industry to do,” Kaushik said.
8chan, 4chan, LiveLeak
8chan, which uses the tagline “the Darkest Reaches of the Internet,” is known for the moral leniency of its community. Its discussion boards draw people to talk on various topics, and most of the comments are even-handed.
But some of the boards harbor extremist and right-wing views, which may contribute to radicalizing the more influenceable.
The rules on 8chan are simple: posts and boards are created by users and “only content that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or other United States laws is deleted.”
Other than this, visitors are welcomed by a fair warning in red lettering about the possibility to find “content of an adult or offensive nature” that may be illegal in their country. If this is the case, they should avoid the website.
The 4chan image-based bulletin board is a mainstream version of 8chan, and the content it makes available is also a weird mix of raunchiness, racism, and disturbing pics. Some of its boards have been linked to the alt-right movement and its rhetoric.
There are 17 rules users need to follow. Some refer to disclosing personal information, advertising, and spamming but one is clear about allowing a variety of content, including racist.
LiveLeak is community-driven, too, allowing them to share videos that wouldn’t make it on other websites. Rules are looser, as the platform aims “to be as uncensored as possible;” but they do not tolerate illegal media, hardcore adult footage, glorification of death, or content intended to harass or flame members.
Copyright complaints are another reason videos can be deleted from LiveLeaks without prior notice.
All three websites promote freedom of speech but the loose boundaries about the type of comments and media accepted can provoke and have an impact on some individuals. This may lead to them embracing more radical values and even acting in their spirit.