Poway synagogue shooting highlights role of online extremism

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SAN DIEGO -- Law enforcement, political and faith leaders are all asking the same question in the wake of attacks such as the recent Poway synagogue shooting: What drives a person to violent extremism?

More and more, experts say the internet is playing a role in radicalization.

Minutes before a gunman opened fire at the Poway synagogue, officials were tipped off to a threatening post on the anonymous message board 8chan.The 8chan post linked to a hate speech-laden manifesto signed with the name John Earnest, the suspected shooter.

Cal State San Bernardino Professor Brian Levin, who specializes in extremism, says the motivation and inspiration for domestic terrorism is evolving through online platforms.

"One year it was threats, and now it's actual violence," Levin said. "It used to be the violent act itself was the message. Now, extremists are packaging this with manifestos and livestreams. They're becoming radicalized much more quickly, and oftentimes much more quietly."

Poway isn't the only recent terrorism incident promoted by the alleged attacker online. Horrific video of the mosque massacre in Christchurch, Australia was streamed live on Facebook, apparently by the perpetrators.

Religious leaders are responding with heightened security. “Now all places that have houses of worship really have to ramp up. That will include higher fencing, it will include cameras (and) it will also include a more aware congregation,” Levin told FOX 5.

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