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How the New Zealand mosque shooting was designed to go viral

The mass shooting was inextricably tied to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The tragic shooting spree in New Zealand has exposed yet again social media’s difficulty policing itself.

A shooter in Christchurch killed 50 people at two mosques last Friday in a live-streamed attack that was designed to exploit how we share on the internet. In the hours after the attack, Facebook, Google and Twitter found themselves overwhelmed with trying to stop the spread of the footage online. New copies of the video, which are still fairly easy to find on the web, went up as quickly as the social media platforms pulled them down.

The spread of the mosque attack video brings new scrutiny to big tech’s inability to take down the graphic content that flows through its products. Leaders from around the world are calling on the companies to do better.

The new criticism comes as lawmakers and the public begin reconsidering the scale and influence of Silicon Valley companies. For the past two years, large tech companies have been called to task for the unintended consequences of their platforms, which range from the rise of misinformation to the prevalence of data misuse.

What makes this different from other mass shootings?

Sadly, videos of mass shootings have become commonplace and are regularly captured on smartphones. The Christchurch killings, however, may mark the first time an attack was born of the internet era. As YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan told The Washington Post, “This was a tragedy that was almost designed for the purpose of going viral.”

The gunman actively sought an audience. He promoted the link to his livestream, as well as a 74-page manifesto, on his Facebook account before the shooting started. He also posted the stream links and manifesto to 8Chan, a fringe message board, in order to spread his message online.

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