Jesse Brown: Epic win for Newgrounds community

Newgrounds.com is a site for lovers of funny, lewd animation and fun, lewd flash games. Its user base skews heavily towards young dudes, and its online forums unsurprisingly feel a lot like your grade 10 friend Doug’s musky basement.

Put-downs and toilet-humor abound. Newground’s message boards aren’t 4chan, but they’re not that different. These, supposedly, are the dark corners of the web where disturbed young men are goaded into committing all sorts of atrocities. We’ve seen screencaps of these kinds of boards on the news many times before, usually after hearing about some terrible carnage.

But last week, the screencaps hit the news before any violence could take place, thanks to the community at NewGrounds.

Concordia student JP Neufeld (Rig, online) is rightly being hailed as a hero for taking seriously user SirTom93’s threat to make the “bastards” pay. He’s the one who figured out that SirTom93 hailed from Norfolk England, and he’s the one who Skyped the cops there and reported SirTom93’s IP address- the only information he had at the time.

But others on the Newgrounds site soon provided valuable assistance. Collaboratively, they went over SirTom93’s old post for clues. They found earlier queries about obtaining gasoline and gun replicas. Other members pieced together SirTom93’s real name and found photos. Some knew him and reasoned that the threats were credible. All of this information was passed on to Norfolk police, who soon stopped a 16 year old from entering Attleborough high school with a knife, gasoline, and matches.

When school shooting do occur, we feebly ask how we can predict the next one, knowing that we probably can’t. But here’s a sign of hope: an online community pooling their collective knowledge and making judgment calls the police lack the context to replicate.