What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet may have once been the rule of thumb, but lately, virtual crime is becoming actual crime, at least in the case of one 4chan user who posted photos of a murdered woman on the site and then later surrendered himself to police as the alleged killer.
What makes this story so disturbing, though, is that 4chan has a history of being a site where hackers and Internet bullies congregate, thanks to its nature (users post to the site anonymously). Not only is the site the place where hacked nude celebrity photos recently turned up, but it's also largely responsible for the GamerGate controversy, which has resulted in the online harassment and threatening of women in the video gaming industry.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that a murderer found the site appealing, enough so that he posted photos of his recently murdered girlfriend there.
"Turns out it's way harder to strangle someone to death than it looks on the movies." the poster anonymously wrote on 4chan. "... She fought so Damn hard."
Of course, like most such things on the Internet, at first, law enforcement wasn't entirely sure if they should take such a post seriously, that is, until the body of the woman, Amber Lynn Coplin, of Port Orchard, Wa., was found by her son. That eventually led to a suspect, 33-year-old David Michael Kalac, turning himself into police as her alleged killer and the 4chan poster.
Most recently, 4chan was linked to #GamerGate, a movement that started out as a cry for ethics in video game journalism. However, the movement quickly devolved into the harassment and threatening of women, including death threats against female game developers, as well as other women in the industry.
According to website We Hunted The Mammoth, 4chan users, in particular, were at the forefront of threatening Zoe Quinn, which kickstarted the GamerGate controversy, by making posts about her being raped and killed. 4chan users also distributed nude photos of Quinn, as well as dug up her private information.
The most recent GamerGate Internet threat targeted Anita Sarkeesian, who canceled a speech at Utah State University after the university received an email that threatened a mass shooting. The university refused Sarkeesian's request for pat-downs and metal detectors, citing that this would be in violation of state laws protecting those people who have permits for concealed weapons. The university's response, though, was disturbing.
"After a careful assessment of the threat it has been determined it is similar to other threats that Sarkeesian has received in the past and all university business will be conducted as scheduled tomorrow," USU officials said, before the cancellation.
This response shows that much of the problem lies with the difficulties law enforcement has in dealing with threats and posts made on the Internet, as well as knowing which ones they should take seriously. Making a death threat is a federal offense, but to date, law enforcement has made no arrests in response to GamerGate threats.
This 4chan murder incident, however, serves as a grim reminder that law enforcement should take all such posts, tweets and comments, extremely seriously and make their responses a higher priority.
[Photo Credit: Wiki Commons]