Tarrant’s online footprint

Radio NZ report:

In March and August 2018, up to a year before he attacked two Christchurch mosques, Brenton Tarrant posted publicly online that he planned to do so. Until now, these statements have not been identified.

In fact, for four years before his attack, Tarrant had been posting anonymously but publicly on the online message board 4chan about the need to attack people of colour in locations of “significance”, including places of worship. …

When he wrote in his manifesto that he was driven to violence by the lack of a political solution – a realisation that came to him in 2017 – we now know he had been calling for attacks against civilians at least as early as 2015.

Where he claimed he was not driven by antisemitism, we found hatred and conspiratorial distrust of Jews were central to his entire worldview.

The researchers have done an excellent job here. It is significant that Tarrant was posting such things. Now obviously not under his name, and he might not have been traceable, but at the least it should have rung some alarm bells.

Because 4chan posts are anonymous, we used a combination of indicators to identify Tarrant. 4chan’s “politically incorrect” board – referred to as /pol/ – provides the time, date and location of each post, allowing us to match this against Tarrant’s travel to numerous countries over five years.

Tarrant also frequently provided personal information in his posts, and he used the same distinctive language. In some cases, he repeated points we know he made elsewhere. He openly and proudly stated his Australian identity, even as he called for violence.

He also often made specific grammatical errors which make his posting stand out. He uses this style in online writing samples as early as 2011, in his 2019 manifesto, and in a great deal of online posting in between. In combination, these indicators identify Tarrant.

Our team of four researchers reviewed thousands of anonymous posts and hundreds of threads on /pol/. We used the platform’s search function for particular words, phrases and images. As a team we carefully evaluated all posts which included several of the above indicators.

We maintained a very high evidence threshold for including posts in our analysis. We excluded some important statements that were almost certainly written by him, but for which only one or two of the above indicators were present.

This seems a very robust methodology.

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