Video of a deadly shooting in Germany was easily accessible on 4chan, BitChute and other sites Thursday, attracting tens of thousands of views, despite efforts by tech companies to curb the spread of violent content.
Roughly 24 hours after the attack, video and links to an anti-Semitic “manifesto” published a week earlier by the gunman were also still available online using a simple keyword search on popular anonymous online forum 4chan.
The assault in city of Halle, which left two people dead Wednesday, took place as Jews marked the holy day of Yom Kippur, with the gunman streaming the attack live online.
The assailant’s 35-minute video was originally livestreamed on Twitch, an Amazon-owned, gaming-focused streaming platform.
Twitch said it was viewed live by just five users and a recording was seen by 2,200 people before it was flagged and removed.
But the full video was still available Thursday on multiple sites promoting violent and sexual content.
Two video links found by AFP had been viewed more than 90,000 times, according to the sites’ visitor counters.
One of them, BitChute, is a video-hosting service which enables peer-to-peer sharing.
It has become popular with the global “alt-right” as it avoids content restrictions on social media platforms like YouTube by relying on user donations rather than advertising.
BitChute has hosted content from prominent conspiracy theorists who have been banned from YouTube, including US vlogger David Seaman, who promoted conspiracies about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Users of 4chan have also repeatedly shared links to the full video from Halle since it was first uploaded on Wednesday.
A keyword search for “Halle” on the forum led to multiple posts with links to the footage.
One 4chan user posted a link to a downloadable copy of the gunman’s manifesto and the full video — with English subtitles added.
“After seeing a lot of non-german speaking anons always asking for what is being said in the Halle Synagogue Shooting Video,” they wrote, “I decide to translate it with subtitles.”
On another online forum, kiwifarms.net, AFP found at least one user offering a link to download the full video using torrent software, along with full instructions.
But the video was not readily available Thursday on mainstream social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
This is in contrast to the livestreamed footage of the Christchurch mosque shootings in March, which was continually re-uploaded to these platforms despite a concerted effort to remove it.
After the Christchurch attacks, governments and tech companies including Amazon signed up to a partnership known as The Call, which aims to eradicate extremism and terrorism online.
“Amazon joined the Christchurch Call in New York, so the incident protocol that we’ve developed has kicked in,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after the Halle attack.
“Companies are communicating as I understand with one other to ensure that that video does not spread online.”
Police captured the Halle suspect after a gun battle that left him injured.
At least two people were shot dead on a street in the German city of Halle on Wednesday, police said, with media and witnesses reporting that a synagogue and a Turkish restaurant were the targets.
“Early indications show that two people were killed in Halle. Several shots were fired,” said police on Twitter, urging residents in the area to stay indoors.
Police had earlier said the “perpetrators fled in a car” before saying later that one suspect had been caught.
It was not immediately clear whether there were other assailants.
The central train station has been closed while the area is under lockdown, rail company Deutsche Bahn said.
According to Bild daily, the shooting took place in front of a synagogue in the Paulus district, and a hand grenade was also flung into a Jewish cemetery. Police could not be reached immediately for confirmation.
Jews around the world were marking Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, on Wednesday.
An eyewitness, Konrad Roesler, told news channel NTV he was in a Turkish restaurant about 600 metres (yards) away from the synagogue when “a man wearing a helmet and military uniform” flung a hand grenade at the store.
“The grenade hit the door and exploded,” he said.
“(The attacker) shot at least once in the shop, the man behind me must be dead. I hid in the toilet and locked the door.”
Speaking to NTV, a police spokesman said the motive of the suspect or suspects was not clear.
“We don’t have any indication about the motive of this act.”
– ‘Big threat’ – Wednesday’s shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi.
Luebcke’s killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.
Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst’s neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground (NSU).
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month warned of the rising danger of the militant far-right, calling it “as big a threat as radical Islamism”.
Seehofer said that police had uncovered 1,091 weapons including firearms and explosives during probes of crimes linked to the far right last year, far more than in 2017 when 676 were found.
At the same time, Germany has also been on high alert following several jihadist attacks in recent years claimed by the Islamic State group.
German prosecutors said Tuesday they had charged Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess, former boss Martin Winterkorn and supervisory board chief Hans Dieter Poetsch with “market manipulation” relating to the car giant’s “dieselgate” scandal.
The three are “accused of deliberately informing capital markets too late about the significant payment obligations in the billions arising from the so-called ‘diesel scandal’, thereby illegally influencing the share price,” prosecutors in the north German city of Brunswick said in a statement.
Tuesday’s move means the trio are on the threshold of a full trial, like Rupert Stadler, former head of Volkswagen subsidiary Audi, who was charged by Munich prosecutors in July.
At issue is the sprawling 12-brand Volkswagen group’s 2015 admission to manipulating 11 million vehicles worldwide to fool regulators’ emissions tests.
Motor control software activated systems to reduce the output of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) only under lab conditions while allowing them to exceed legal limits by up to 40 times in real driving.
Diess, Winterkorn, and Poetsch — who all sat on the executive board in 2015 — failed to inform investors of the cheating as soon as they knew about it and the massive financial risks for the company, “against their legal obligation,” prosecutors said.
Diess has run VW since April 2018 but joined the board as Volkswagen brand chief in 2015.
In early September, he told AFP at the Frankfurt IAA car show that there was “no question” he would step down if charged.
Winterkorn was at the controls from 2007 to 2015, stepping down soon after the scandal broke.
In April, he was charged with serious fraud, unfair competition and breach of trust by prosecutors in Brunswick, alongside four other suspects.
The dieselgate scandal shook Volkswagen to its foundations and with it Germany’s flagship car sector, a pillar of the economy that employs around 800,000 people.
It has cost VW alone more than 30 billion euros ($33 billion) in fines, legal costs and compensation payments to car owners — the vast majority in the United States.
At home, Audi, Porsche, and the Volkswagen brand have paid a total of 2.3 billion euros in fines for negligence in failing to stop the cheating — the only way to punish the companies themselves in German law.
Still, on the boil are multiple inquiries looking to determine who within the companies was responsible for the cheating.
Brunswick prosecutors’ probe has had almost 40 people in its sights.
Neither have investors or car owners been idle.
Shareholders have launched a massive joint lawsuit demanding nine billion euros of damages, while some 400,000 drivers’ cases have been bundled into a trial that will begin on September 30.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen emerged the winner of a chaotic and thrilling GermanGrand Prix on Sunday with both Mercedes cars spinning out of contention and Sebastian Vettel weaving his way to second from the back of the grid.
With intermittent rain making the Hockenheim circuit slippery and unpredictable pole-sitter and championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to settle for 11th after sliding off twice.
A German court Friday fined two gynaecologists for offering information publicly on how they carry out abortion services, despite the recent easing of a Nazi-era law banning practitioners from advertising of pregnancy terminations.
German law allows abortions but effectively discourages them through various hurdles, including the law in question, article 219a, which dates to May 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler took power in Nazi Germany.
After an uproar over another recent case, the government early this year lifted a blanket ban on publicising abortion services.
Under the eased rules, gynaecologists, hospitals and public health services are allowed to share essential information about where women can terminate unwanted pregnancies.
However, the two gynaecologists identified only as Bettina G. and Verena W. still fell foul of the amended law because they “not only provided information about whether but also about how the termination of pregnancy is carried out,” the Berlin court said.
“Doctors should in principle only indicate that they carry out abortions,” added the court, imposing a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,250) on each gynaecologist.
On their website, the doctors said they offered “medicinal, anaesthesia-free abortion” in a “protected environment”.
Both defendants voiced disappointment at the ruling and said they would mount an appeal.
“It’s so awful, my stomach turned,” said Bettina G.
Germany, despite being a leading voice for women’s rights in the 1970s, imposes tight restrictions on abortion, permitting it only under strictly regulated circumstances.
It is left out of universities’ course books for student doctors and kept unavailable in swathes of the country.
A woman who wants to abort within the first trimester is required to attend a consultation at a registered centre.
The aim of the interview is to “incite the woman to continue the pregnancy,” according to the rules, even if in the end she has the final say.
Excluding special circumstances such as a pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother, or one arising from rape, abortion is not a procedure that is reimbursable by health insurance.
In some regions, including in the predominantly Catholic state of Bavaria, it may be necessary to travel 100 kilometres (60 miles) to find a doctor who performs the procedure.
Germany records an average of 100,000 abortions for 790,000 births, about half the rate of neighbouring France.
The body of a German tourist who went missing earlier this month was found Wednesday in the scorching Australian outback, police said.
Police said the remains of Monika Billen, 62, were discovered after receiving crucial new phone data to narrow down her location.
Her body was found about three kilometers (two miles) away from Emily Gap, a site popular with tourists in a remote nature park famed for its rocky ravines and gorges, outside Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Police had launched land and aerial searches for Billen, including the use of drones, but had called off the search before receiving the new information.
She is believed to have hitched and walked her way to the Emily Gap, and officers believe a motorist may have seen her looking dehydrated and a disorientated as early as January 2.
Billen was reported missing on January 11.
“Police received additional information from Ms Billen’s telecommunications provider and have continued with aerial searches in specific areas for the past two days,” Northern Territory Police Superintendent Pauline Vicary said in a statement.
“It has required extensive work, interpreting data from both international and national phone providers, but the outcome assisted in narrowing down the search parameters and eventually locating Ms Billen.”
Temperatures have soared above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) during the southern hemisphere summer in the central desert region.
Police said Billen had only a yellow cashmere scarf to protect against the scorching sun.
For years after the last doctor left the small German village of Weissenborn, 79-year-old former mayor Arno Maeurer had to rely on his car to reach the nearest clinic, as a chronic shortage of practitioners gripped his rural region.
But this year a clinic started coming to him.
The “Medibus” is a complete doctor’s office in a red and yellow bus that sets up shop in the community of around 1,000 people for a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“The day will come when I won’t be able to drive anymore, so I’ll be totally dependent on the Medibus,” Maeurer says.
For the time being, he turns to the mobile practice now and then but still sees his doctor when he isn’t completely booked up.
Every week, the bus, set up by the Hesse state medical association, stops off in six villages in western Germany.
As in many areas of western Europe, they are afflicted both by an aging population and a scarcity of practitioners to take care of them.
On board the Medibus, doctor Matthias Roth saw around 35 patients a day in the summer months, or roughly the same number as a traditional GP’s practice, the association says.
Around 70 percent of the patients were more than 55 years old, and 30 percent older than 76.
“It’s a full practice, we have everything on board to diagnose and care for patients,” Roth tells AFP, from his chair behind the tiny desk squeezed into the consulting room in the vehicle’s rear.
Outside on the town square of Cornberg — population 1,600 — project supervisor Carsten Lotz from the medical association declares the project a “very big success, we’re very satisfied.”
Creeping ‘medical deserts’
Across Hesse, more than 170 doctors’ posts are unfilled, according to data from the medical association.
Even the offer of a bonus of up to 66,000 euros ($75,000) over five years to those setting up in specific areas has failed to lure enough new blood, while doctors delaying retirement are offered up to 2,000 euros per quarter.
The shortage is so acute that the Medibus received a special exemption from a general ban on itinerant doctors.
Fearing the initiative might speed up the growth of so-called “medical deserts”, some local officials have resisted the bus, Lotz says.
“It’s still our job to bring young doctors to the towns, the Medibus is just there as a top-up” where that isn’t possible, he says.
For doctor Roth, it’s “a good solution given what’s available,” even if it’s “certainly not an ideal state of affairs”.
“We aren’t competing with local doctors,” he adds.
While waiting for the “miracle” of a new permanent doctor arriving, former mayor Maeurer says the bus “must absolutely be kept going… it’s better than nothing.”
Managers, for now, plan to keep the Medibus going for two years at a total cost of 600,000 euros.
Europe-wide, the problem of medical deserts is spreading, with falling numbers of generalists, a wave of older doctors heading into retirement and their young successors looking for a more balanced lifestyle.
In the UK, the British Medical Association estimates there are around 2,000 patients for every GP, and rural areas struggle to lure young doctors away from the cities, a spokesman told AFP.
The country’s National Health Service (NHS) has offered bonuses of 20,000 pounds (22,500 euros, $25,500) to newly qualified practitioners setting up in the least attractive areas.
And in France, around eight percent of the population — 5.3 million people — lives in one of the 9,000 municipalities judged to have an undersupply of doctors, according to the French government.
While France has a similar ban on itinerant medicine to Germany’s, the medical association has authorized the practice in exceptional cases “in the interests of public health” — with a first mobile unit planned in the central Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region early next year.
The German parliament on Friday approved a law allowing a third gender option on birth certificates for people who are not distinctly male or female.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right coalition had passed legislation permitting children born intersex to be registered as “miscellaneous”.
The new measure follows a ruling by Germany’s top court in November 2017 that current regulations on civil status are discriminatory against intersex people, noting the sexual identity of an individual is protected as a basic right.
Intersex is a broad term encompassing people who have gender traits, such as genitals or chromosomes, that do not entirely fit with a typical binary notion of male or female.
According to the United Nations, between 0.05 and 1.7 percent of the global population are intersex — about the same percentage as people with red hair.
Sometimes this is apparent at birth, at other times it becomes noticeable in puberty.
The new German law also allows changing a person’s gender and name at a later stage, but it drew criticism because this will in most cases require a medical examination.
The Lesbian and Gay Association LSVD charged that this signaled that being intersex was seen as an abnormality and demanded that “degrading assessments… must be abolished”.
However, conservative Christian Democrats lawmaker Marc Henrichmann argued that the official civil register must be based on evidence rather than self-assessments, reported DPA news agency.
Germany has since 2013 allowed babies born with characteristics of both sexes to leave the gender options of a male and female blank.
The Federal Constitutional Court in its ruling gave parliament until the end of 2018 to amend the current legislation.
The decision was in favor of an appeal brought by an intersex adult and said that courts and authorities should no longer compel intersex people to choose between identifying as male or female.
An alleged neo-Nazi was acquitted by a German court Tuesday for a bombing 18 years ago targeting Jewish immigrants at a commuter rail station.
Ralf Spies, 52, was cleared of 12 counts of attempted murder with a “racist” motive and a charge of causing an explosion in the attack in the western city of Duesseldorf on July 27, 2000.
The regional court in the city found him not guilty, after having released him from custody in May “for lack of sufficiently reliable witness testimony”.
All the victims were on their way back from a German language course when the explosive, hung in a plastic bag on a fence near the Wehrhahn station entrance, went off, sparking panic.
Ten eastern European migrants — six of them Jews from the former Soviet Union — were injured in the bombing.
A 26-year-old Ukrainian pregnant woman lost her unborn child and had to undergo emergency surgery after the blast ripped off one of her feet.
Her 28-year-old husband suffered wounds over his entire body from metal fragments unleashed in the explosion and was in a critical condition for several days.
Several of the victims are still in therapy to cope with their trauma, chief prosecutor Ralf Herrenbrueck said at the start of the trial.
The prosecution had called for a life sentence.
Spies was known to police as a rightwing extremist at the time and ran a military surplus store near the scene of the crime, which shocked Germany and drew international condemnation.
Investigators say the former soldier has a swastika and a well-known Nazi fortress tattooed on his body.
His trial began under tight security in January, when Spies told the court he had not carried out the bombing and didn’t know who had.
“I was definitely not at the scene of the crime at the time it happened,” he said.
Duesseldorf police had even questioned Spies for several hours and placed him under surveillance soon after the bombing before determining they did not have enough evidence to arrest him.
The investigation, long dormant, was only revived in 2011, after a series of 10 murders by a band of neo-Nazis.
Known as the NSU, short for National Socialist Underground, the cell consisted of a trio of far-right militants who shot dead eight men with Turkish roots, a Greek migrant and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
While no link was established between the NSU’s killings and the Duesseldorf bombing, they spurred investigators to take the extremist threat more seriously.
The NSU’s sole surviving member, Beate Zschaepe, was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month by a court in Munich.