Norwegian killer trained online

Farzana Rasool
By Farzana Rasool, ITWeb IT in Government Editor.
Johannesburg, 25 Jul 2011

Social media has been blamed for providing Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik with a platform for his violent message, in some online forums.

Breivik is believed to be responsible for two terrorist attacks which took place on Friday in Norway, resulting in the deaths of at least 93 people.

Reuters says Breivik wrote blogs attacking multiculturalism and Islam. A video confirmed to have been made by him two days before the killings also displays his political motivation behind the attacks.

Breivik reportedly logged onto Facebook to post a farewell message before the attacks. This post included a 1 516-page document and a video link to YouTube. The video has since been removed from YouTube.

He also encouraged his Facebook friends to use his manifesto as a blueprint for action in the manifesto "2083: A European Declaration of Independence".

In the document, he also offers detailed instructions on Web-based self-publishing and gives tips for building a successful terror cell.

Breivik interviews himself in the manifesto and presses his friends to build their networks for action like his on Facebook.

He was also an online gamer and said in his manifesto the game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” was used for his training-simulation.

Forums also show arguments over the influence his online gaming had on his terrorist actions. This has led some interest groups to call for games to be banned if the violence is excessive.

Breivik also described his addiction to the online game World of Warcraft”. He said the game served as a good cover story to explain what he was doing while plotting the attacks.

Electronic afterthought

WWW Strategy MD Steven Ambrose says it must be noted that Breivik did not consciously use social media in his planning.

“It was more of an afterthought. He created a Twitter account in the last few days and only posted once.”

However, from the perspective of children, in particular, being exposed to Breivik's message, Ambrose says social media and the Internet no doubt give them access to what they never would have been exposed to before.

He adds that in situations such as this, it is the parents' role that determines the impact on children.

“The bottom line is you can't stop your kids from going online but you should not abdicate your role as parents. Parents need to understand the electronic environment their children play in and manage it appropriately.”

He adds that a tool is only a tool and it is the care and attention that is given to its usage that matters. “A knife's great, it can cut through bread, but it can also slice your finger. Parents need to tell kids that when they get on the Internet they must look right, look left and then cross.”

Step sync

Ambrose says the problem is that the older generation is generally out of step with the younger generation, and parents may feel Facebook and other social media are just for their kids' usage.

“The problem is if a young person reads carefully crafted information like this manifesto with no context or supervision, it can lead to all manner of things.”

He emphasises that technology is becoming so pervasive that children are considering it a part of normal life and forget to think of it as technology.

“The dangers or concerns have never changed. Children lack discrimination and judgment in the use of any tool. Parents need to be aware and in control as much as is possible.

“Parenting and child-rearing has not changed, only the challenges and nuances that technology has brought, but the basics remain: use the technology appropriately and with thought.”