Schools in Charlottesville, Virginia remained closed for a second day Friday in the wake of a threatened "ethnic cleansing" at Charlottesville High School. An anonymous user posted a message to online imageboard 4chan Wednesday, saying that they would be carrying out a racially motivated attack against the school's black and Latino students and warning white students to stay home.
Charlottesville newspaper The Daily Progress reports that while police are investigating the source of the threat, schools have been closed to ensure student safety. "We want to make sure that we alleviate any fears that our parents may have and our students and staff may have," Charlottesville Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins told the paper, "and to reassure them that if we have opened the doors, we have considered every possibility that we could consider."
Late Thursday, reports emerged of a second threat made towards nearby Albemarle High School. Police identified the source of that threat, and arrested a teenager. Local news outlets report that there’s no connection between the Albemarle and Charlottesville incidents.
Word of the threat initially surfaced on Reddit after a user posted a screenshot from 4chan to the Charlottesville subreddit. While it may seem overabundantly cautious to close schools for days over an anonymous threat, Charlottesville is intimately familiar with the very real danger of white supremacist violence-the city was the site of 2017’s Unite the Right rally, an event partially organized via 4chan. During the rally, a white nationalist drove his car through a crowd of counter protestors, injuring 19 people and murdering 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
The connection between online extremism and real-world violence was again made tragically evident last week when a white nationalist carried out a terrorist attack that killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two New Zealand mosques. The shooter announced his intentions in a post on 8chan, a site that's similar to 4chan but even less moderated, making it a popular destination for pedophiles and members of hate groups. Even 8chan’s founder, software developer Frederick Brennan, has disavowed his creation.
"It was very difficult in the days that followed to know that I had created that site," he told The Wall Street Journal in the wake of the New Zealand attacks. "I have no desire to ever be involved in the image-board world again... a lot of these sites cause more misery than anything else.”
In the wake of the mosque shootings, New Zealand and Australian internet service providers have blocked access to 4chan, 8chan, and other websites popular among the far right, like social network Voat.
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