Virginia shootings spark internet tributes, debate

Photos, videos, prayers, condolences and rumours spread across the internet within minutes of the Virginia Tech massacre as people used websites to mourn the victims.

Photos, videos, prayers and rumours spread across the internet within minutes of the Virginia Tech massacre as people from around the world used websites to mourn the victims and get the latest information about the shootings.

There are hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to Monday's shootings, which left 33 people dead andat least 15injured on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The shooter was among the dead.

One Facebook group called "A Tribute to Those who Passed at the Virginia Tech Shooting" had more than 100,000 members by Tuesday morning. Postings come from around the world, including Canada.

Many of the groups have posted the Virginia Tech logo, superimposed over a black ribbon, declaring "Today, we are all Hokies," the name of the university sports teams.

Memorial websites urge people to wear maroon and orange— the university colours— on Tuesday.

"We want [Virginia Tech] to know that the world is thinking of them," said one Facebook group.

A comments board on the student-run website Planet Blacksburg is flooded with condolences from across the U.S. and around the world.

"From France sharing your pain and sorrow on that dreadful day," writes a poster named Bertrand.

Other messages came from Scotland, Australia, Denmark, Kuwait and Ireland.

Friends of one of the victims, Emily Hilscher, have set up a Facebook page called "Why Emily Hilscher was cooler than me— a group for the goddess named Emily Hilscher."

"She was always smiling, always looking at the bright side, and for that, she was cooler than me," wrote Ben Sheffield.

Another website has posted photos of the victims, complete with links to their MySpace or Facebook pages.

Along with the prayers and poetry came speculation about the shooter, who police on Tuesday identified as Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old native of South Korea.

Studentaccused, threatened

On Monday, however, the name of another Virginia Tech student spread across blogs and message boards after his personal blog showed photos posing with weapons and postings about his ex-girlfriend.

More than 80,000 people visited Wayne Chiang's site until he posted a message declaring he was not the shooter and had to call police after receiving death threats.

"It was five for five. I was Asian, I lived in (the dorm), I go to V Tech, I recently broke up with my girlfriend and I collect guns," he told ABC News.

The shootings sparked a number of discussions on gun control and gun safety.

"Maybe if some of those kids in the classroom had a gun and knew how to use it could defend themselves less people would have died," wrote Jessica Cowles on Facebook.

Like its predecessors Live Journal, Friendster, Hi5 and MySpace, Facebook is a wildly popular social networking website. Members can join networks based around their hometown, school or workplace.

With files from the Canadian Press