The anonymous bomb threat which caused the entire Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to shut down Tuesday appears to have originated from an Internet domain dubbed a “meme sewer” for its vulgar content.
LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines said from the beginning that officials acted from an “abundance of caution” in shutting down classes. As it turns out, caution may have been even more abundant than it initially appeared. In the hours after LAUSD canceled classes, it emerged the threat was made via an anonymous email to a school board member. That email was routed through the email server cock.li.
Just what is cock.li? The tech website Boing Boing describes cock.li as an “Internet meme sewer,” due to its affiliation with the anonymous web forum 8chan. 8chan, a spinoff of the popular 4chan website, has almost not moderation and is therefore known for producing offensive and sometimes illegal content, while also generating many popular Internet memes.
Cock.li imitates 8chan’s irreverent setup. Visitors to the page are treated to a randomly-chosen quote from one of its users, such as “I love cock!” and “I have lube tourettes.” Besides the primary cock.li email accounts, there are also thousands of emails in spinoff domains with names like “nigge.rs,” “dicksinmyan.us,” and “national.shitposting.agency.”
Cock.li’s involvement in the hoax was revealed by its administrator Vincent Canfield, who posted about it on Twitter:
The person behind the #LAUSD threats used cock.li to do it. Threatened NYC SD as well. https://t.co/vy8WYTw0kI pic.twitter.com/WOZr2Zy0Z7
— Vincent Canfield (@gexcolo) December 15, 2015
The oddball origin of the threat is leaving LAUSD open to criticism for its decision to keep all 640,000 of the district’s students home Tuesday, especially after it emerged a nearly-identical threat was sent to New York’s public school system, which chose to ignore it.
“I think it was a significant overreaction,” New York police commissioner William Bratton said of LAUSD’s reaction, essentially mocking the district for its extreme caution. “We do not see that as a credible terrorist threat, and we are investigating it as a hoax.”
The FBI and Los Angeles police now agree, and LAUSD is planning to reopen all of its schools Wednesday after conducting a search at over a thousand district-owned locations.
Canfield sent an email to all cock.li users mocking LAUSD for its over-the-top reaction to the threat:
While people that abuse cock.li are actually the scum of this site and waste so much of my time, it’s amusing that an administration can take a few E-mails and shut down a school district of hundreds of thousands of students as a result. This is an administration problem and the fact that NYC didn’t close schools it wasn’t a “credible” threat is especially telling of the subjectivity that goes into making sweeping decisions like this that effect [sic] countless people.
We live in an age where anonymous messages can be sent with extreme ease (not just through cock.li). When someone uses a meme E-mail provider to threaten your organization, pulling the plug on all students and wasting over 1,800 combined YEARS of student-classroom time is a PR stunt and another example of officials employing security theater to make their students and parents feel safe. This cannot be demonstrated clearer than the fact that when something like this happens, and copycat threats inevitably come soon after, the same response is not deployed.
All of this over from an E-mail from a meme email provider. Sorry for the political E-mail, hopefully this situation adds more kek to your day than it has added me stress.
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