VKontanke, or VK, is one of the world's biggest non-Facebook social media networks. The Russian-language based website has 43 million daily users, and is, according to Alexa, the 25th largest website in the world. Americans found out a bit about VK last week when it was discovered that Dzhokar Tsarnaev, one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, maintained a user profile there. The image above is his profile picture.
The page is believed to be genuine, and is currently being combed over by federal investigators and journalists for clues about the 19 year-old's motives and history. But right there on the profile, just out of view from most idly curious eyes, is a still-unfolding comment thread that is probably one of the most disturbing places on the internet. And this is the internet we're talking about here.If you click on Dzhokar's profile picture, you'll see that there are 15,000 comments on the image alone. It is a stream of remarks, images, and videos left by a mix of mostly Russian and some American commenters. Some are bizarre, some are pointless, and some will flood your gut with nausea. Some are angry screeds aimed at the suspect, some are racist diatribes against Muslims, some are prejudiced rants against Americans. Some comments are threatening, some espouse conspiracy theories, some are loaded with non-sequiters, and some contain videos and images that show the most graphic gore and distressing violence this side of 4Chan. I don't fully understand everything that's going on here; again, there's a language barrier, but I cannot unsee some of the things I saw on Dzhokar Tsarnaev's VK profile.Let that be a warning to the curious—the following is NSFW, but only marginally, as I've left the worst of this macabre carnival to links, or out altogether. Here are just a few of the things that users posted under the 19 year-old bombing suspect's face:
A bizarre cartoon featuring Bambi, soldiers, dynamite, and a pants-less man.A snuff film clip of a man burying a woman alive. There is also a video of a man cutting a woman's throat.
A young man doing a line of cocaine off of another man's penis.This video:This:
Two Russians sunbathing.
Graphic photos from the crime scene in Watertown, Massachussetts.An image of Tamarlan's corpse.And of course:
Many of the images were added by just a handful of users, who appear to have posted dozens of times. One of them is Vadislav Vesnushka, who single-handedly shared a lion's share of the disturbing images, often in an effort to silence women who disagree with him. Amina Kerimova, meanwhile, spends much of her time proclaiming Dzhokar's innocence. Alex Byngton, who may or may not be the man pictured shirtless above, posted many of the most absurd pictures. It is a war of conspiracy theories, ethnic hatred, and internet cartoons.Regardless, it's a revolting thread, super-charged with racism, xenophobia, outrage, despair and an intense kind of misogyny that makes me afraid for Russian women everywhere. Especially because VK is apparently content to let users host snuff film clips on what has to be its most-visited user profile right now.