American authorities are investigating a suspicious warning posted yesterday on the anonymous image-board 4chan, after it emerged an individual told 4chan /b/ users “not to go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest”, a day before the shooting in Oregon that killed nine people and left the shooter dead.
The identity of the shooter who attacked students at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon is known to the police, and it is confirmed police shot and killed the 26-year-old man.
In the original post on 4chan, many users are seen to egg the ‘OP' (original poster) on, giving him advice on how to maximise the damage he intends to cause.
After the shooting, other users realised the connection between the post and news and can be seen to celebrate.
There is no proof that the anonymous 4chan user and the shooter are the same person.Because of the nature of the website, verification of someone's identity is very difficult as the site doesn't allow any registrations (except for staff), and they don't keep records of IP addresses where posts are made from. In other words it has no memory and no way to collect details on people.
In a TED talk from 2010, the sites founder Christopher Poole explained that the anonymous aspect of the website is what makes it unique and he worries that “...sites like it are kind of going the way of the dinosaur right now”.
“They're endangered because... we're moving towards persistent identity. We're moving towards… a lack of privacy”.
Given the potential connection with the Umpqua Community College shooting, one has to wonder how much longer 4chan will be allowed to remain anonymous.