De Faakto Intelligence Research Observatory
The Art of Shitposting-Nonsense, Propaganda or Warfare?
Background & Analysis
Shitposting is an online activity that consists of poor quality photo shopped memes, unfunny jokes, Non-sequiturs and spam. Shitposts are designed to distract and derail productive discussion and provoke an emotional reaction from internet readers. Shitposting has evolved into an effective disinformation and propaganda tool that is used by troll factories to weaponize information and disrupt democracy. Dialogue is high jacked, conversations confused, and readers are distracted from the actual issue at hand. Shitposting is an effective political tool for dissemination of misinformation. Shitposting is not an unorganized or unprofessional activity; troll factories are highly organized groups with a focus on propagating misinformation and disrupting political dialogue. Russian internet trolls, spread false information on the internet and are responsible for a number of “highly coordinated campaigns” executed to deceive the American public. Any entity has the potential to be an effective Shitposter. Motivation to shitpost may be financial, philosophical, extremist, religious, state sponsored, intelligence, counterintelligence, disinformation-propaganda and or psychological in nature. Shitposting is a remarkable information tool because it is cost effective, and problematic to counter. Shitposting while difficult to measure accurately, is considered by most to be extraordinarily effective. Shitposting is perhaps a form of informational guerrilla warfare because of the asymmetrical nature. Trolls and Shitposters understand emotional triggers and possess the skills necessary to exploit the emotions and complexities of human nature within the designated disinformation campaign.
What Do Shit Posts Look Like?
Shitposts are Online materials
- Poorly photo shopped memes
- Unfunny jokes
- Spam (Quartz, 2018)
What is Shitposting?
- Shitposting is the act of throwing out huge amounts of content, most of it ironic, low-quality trolling, for the purpose of provoking an emotional reaction in less Internet-savvy viewers. The ultimate goal is to derail productive discussion and distract readers (Bellingcat, 2019)
- Shitposting is aiming an army of trolls at sites to press a certain viewpoint and mute all others (Tech Crunch, 2016)
- Shitposting is a methodology to weaponize information often against democracy
- Shitposts are a very powerful political tool to disseminate information/misinformation
- Shitposts are deliberate acts designed to confuse dialogue (Quartz, 2018)
- Shitposts are meant to highjack conversations (Quartz, 2018)
- Shitposts are intended to draw attention away from what is actually happening (Tech Crunch, 2016)
- Shitposting is a distraction method which prevents the audience from engaging with the issue at hand (Quartz, 2018)
Shitposting is the process of derailing a conversation with, “thread jacking, circlejerking and non-commercial spamming
- Thread jacking” is exactly what it sounds like – taking over a thread with your friends
- Circle jerking” is the process of creating earnest yet ridiculous posts aimed at confusing everyone involved- Comments designed to fluster those taking the proceedings seriously (Tech Crunch, 2016)
What Shitposting is Not?
- Shitposts are not misguided attempts at cleverness (Quartz, 2018)
- The shitpost isn’t an expression of power, rather it is the derailment of discourse (Tech Crunch, 2016)
- Shitposting is not an unorganized or unprofessional misinformation activity, troll factories are well organized entities focused on disrupting political dialogue and propagating misinformation to undermine democracy
What is the Psychology Behind Shitposting?
- Professor Greg Barton, an expert on terrorism from Deakin University, says that racist “Shitposting” is common across the internet, and is a way for people to connect and gain attention (Sydney Morning Herald, 2019)
- “The thing about social media is that it’s social. You want some feedback, you want people to like your stuff whether it’s Instagram or Facebook”
- “Shitposting is all about getting your profile up, getting a response and the more ironic and funny you can be the more you get”
- According to Professor Barton, this kind of extreme dark humour is an expression of the hyper-masculinity that fuels extremist groups
- “Hyper-masculinity is an exaggerated desire to be seen to be tough and to be recognised as the alpha and to get respect … Alt-right real-world communities often involve a fight club culture and a lot of real-world violence”
- “The online equivalent is to provoke, to bully to dominate and intimidate … it’s called toxic masculinity for good reason” (Sydney Morning Herald, 2019)
Is Shitposting Disinformation or Propaganda?
- Shitposting may be considered information warfare, disinformation or propaganda
- Russian internet trolls, paid by the Kremlin to spread false information on the internet — have been behind a number of “highly coordinated campaigns” to deceive the American public
- Disinformation campaigns are only one “active measure” tool used by Russian intelligence to “sow discord among,” and within, allies perceived hostile to Russia (Business Insider, 2016)
- According to Michael Weiss, a senior editor at The Daily Beast and editor-in-chief of The Interpreter, “dezinformatsiya,” is designed to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs (Business Insider, 2016)
Who is Behind Shit Posting?
- Any individual, organization or entity can be an effective Shitposter. Motivations to shitpost may be financial, philosophical, extremist, religious, state sponsored, intelligence, counterintelligence, disinformation and or psychological warfare. Shit posting is a remarkable information tool because it is cost effective, requires some creative effort and intellectual acuity, and while difficult to quantify, is considered extraordinarily effective. One may consider shitposting, as a form of informational guerrilla warfare because of its asymmetrical nature.
Examples of Shitposting Entities
- Freelance journalist Adrian Chen, a staff writer at The New Yorker, discovered Russia’s “army of well-paid trolls” while researching for the New York Times magazine in 2015
- Chen discovered that Russian internet trolls — paid by the Kremlin to spread false information on the internet — have been behind a number of “highly coordinated campaigns” to deceive the American public (Business Insider, 2016)
Oculus founder-Palmer Luckey
- The 2016 presidential election is an example of shitposting
- Oculus founder Palmer Luckey funded a group whose stated purpose was to flood the web with anti-Hillary Clinton memes (Tech Crunch, 2016)
- Shitposting is commonly used by the alt-right to promote their belief in white supremacy and wish to rid Western nations of non-white citizens (Sydney Morning Herald, 2019)
- Alt-Right mass murderer, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the Australian man accused of killing 50 people last month at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, refers to online shitposting
- The gunman is believed to have posted a hate-filled manifesto online shortly before carrying out the killings (Bellingcat, 2019)
- Before beginning his bloody spree, the Christchurch shooter- presumably the same person who wrote the manifesto- announced his intentions to 8chan’s /pol/ board. He opened by saying that it is “time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort” (Bellingcat, 2019)
Its official: “Shitpost” is the word that best describes the internet in 2017-Corinne Purtill (2018) https://qz.com/1173819/shitpost-is-the-2017-digital-word-of-the-year/
Shitposting, Inspirational Terrorism, and the Christchurch Mosque Massacre-Robert Evans (2019) https://www.bellingcat.com/news/rest-of-world/2019/03/15/shitposting-inspirational-terrorism-and-the-christchurch-mosque-massacre/
Papa What’s a Shitpost? Tech Crunch-John Biggs (2016) https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/23/papa-whats-a-shitpost/
It looks like Russia hired internet trolls to pose as pro-Trump Americans-Business Insider-Natasha Bertrand (2016) https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-internet-trolls-and-donald-trump-2016-7
Inside the ‘shitposting’ subculture the alleged Christchurch shooter belonged to- The Sydney Morning Herald-Matilda Boseley (2019) https://www.smh.com.au/national/inside-the-shit-posting-subculture-the-christchurch-shooter-belonged-to-20190317-p514xt.html