The world’s most popular 3D-printed gun was designed by an aspiring terrorist

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4chan is ephemeral (posts are regularly deleted) and supposedly anonymous (the default name setting for any post is simply “anonymous”). However, the website does put a unique string of letters and numbers that sticks with each person in any one thread – as a way of keeping track of who is who in the conversation while maintaining a veneer of anonymity.

This meant that, using the 4chan archive site 4plebs.org, I was able to track down other comments from @thereal_JacobK in the thread, which contained hitherto unknown details about his life, including his frustrations with living in Germany, his desire to move to the US and his love for the Second Amendment. But perhaps most striking was that he described himself as an incel – a term used by an anti-feminist online community who define themselves as “involuntary celibates”.

Revealing the personality hidden behind the gun

The way Jacob D. wrote anonymously in the 4chan thread was also very revealing. He capitalized the word “I” only at the beginning of a sentence – never after. And he always put a space before an exclamation mark or question mark, which is not common for Germans.

Analyzing these writing habits is the field of forensic linguistics, which became famous for its use in the arrest of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. These stylistic features meant I could track more of his comments in other conversation threads – sometimes his repeated use of the same images provided additional clues about the threads he was involved in.

Eventually, I found threads in which Jacob D had uploaded photos of himself, including one in which he showed his face. Partly by using a facial recognition platform, I was able to find his old SoundCloud and Couchsurfing profiles — in the latter, he said he was planning to travel to the US, “the country that had fascinated me since my teens,” before joining the German army.

And in both of these profiles he gave his real name: Jacob Duygu.

Finally, I have been able to track down hundreds of supposedly anonymous posts that Duygu has posted on 4chan and other message boards over the years. The FGC-9 designer has written about his life in Germany, his time in the Bundeswehr (German armed forces), and his loneliness and despair at being an incel. They show him to be a complex, unstable, obsessive, and tragic individual. And they also reveal some extremist views.

The difference between these comments and the comments he made publicly in interviews (using his pseudonym JStark1809) was striking. In the interviews, he spoke about the need to protect free speech and human rights. He cited the example of the genocide of European Jews in the Holocaust or the Uighur people in China to argue why people need to own firearms, and why he created the FGC-9.

But when you look at his anonymous comments, a different picture emerges. Far from being a person concerned about human rights, his words were often xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic. And this wasn’t limited to 4chan, which has a particularly offensive, unpleasant culture where perhaps not everything should be taken at face value.

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