Deadly attack targets synagogue in Germany

October, 2019

The suspected gunman in the Yom Kippur synagogue attack in Halle, Germany, broadcast his rampage on the livestreaming platform Twitch, in the latest instance of rightwing extremists using mass shootings to create and promote real-time propaganda.

About 35 minutes of video was broadcast live on Twitch, an Amazon-owned platform that is primarily used by video game players, the company confirmed Wednesday. Twitch removed the video but copies had already been downloaded and shared elsewhere on the internet, highlighting the challenges faced by platforms attempting to stymy the dissemination of such material.

Having failed to enter the synagogue by shooting at the locks, the gunman shot dead two people nearby. Two others were injured. He was arrested after fleeing the scene.

The Halle attack is the second livestreamed rightwing extremist attack this year, following the March massacre of 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was broadcast on Facebook Live. The alleged gunman in the April synagogue shooting in Poway, California, shared a Facebook Live link in a manifesto posted on the extremist message board 8chan prior to his attack, suggesting that he planned to livestream the shooting that left one dead and two injured.

“Livestreaming enables extremists to amplify their actions, but even more so, bringing their supporters and others that they want to inspire on the journey with them,” said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “It is an interactive radicalization tool that also helps spread content that may inspire the next attacker after them.”

Aspects of the video, which was reviewed by the Guardian, appear designed for this exact purpose. The video opens with the suspect introducing himself in English to the camera as “Anon” and declaring himself an antisemite, anti-feminist and Holocaust denier. The use of English suggests he had an international audience in mind, and a reference to falling birth rates is in line with popular white nationalist tropes. “Anon” is internet lingo for an anonymous user of forums such as 4chan and 8chan.

The video was viewed by just five people during the attack, the company said, and by about 2,200 people in the 30 minutes after the attack had ended and before Twitch took it down.

“This video was not surfaced in any recommendations or directories,” the company said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Instead, our investigation suggests that people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services.”

Despite this limited initial audience, however, the video has since been broadly disseminated on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that has become a haven for white nationalists and other far-right extremists. One copy of the video had been viewed by more than 33,000 people on Telegram as of Wednesday afternoon. Edited versions of the video were also being shared openly on Twitter throughout the day .

Source: The Guardian