Report: Social media platforms ‘weaponized’ alleged Buffalo shooter

Northeast

People stand in the parking lot of the Tops Friendly Market on Thursday, July 14, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. The Buffalo supermarket where 10 Black people were killed by a white gunman is set to reopen its doors, two months after the racist attack. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

(NewsNation) — A new report from the New York Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday accuses social media platforms and the dark web of radicalizing Payton Gendron, the teenage suspect in the May 14 attack on the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, which resulted in 10 deaths.

“Fringe online platforms, like 4chan, radicalized the shooter; livestreaming platforms, like Twitch, were weaponized to publicize and encourage copycat violent attacks; and a lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability of these platforms allowed hateful and extremist views to proliferate online, leading to radicalization and violence,” New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul concluded in the 47-page report.

Citing the use of social media to plan and promote the Buffalo rampage, the investigative report called on state legislatures Tuesday to discourage the livestreaming of homicides after finding the shooter was “galvanized by his belief that others would be watching him commit violence in real time.” 

James, a Democrat, suggested New York lawmakers make it illegal for platforms to allow livestreamed homicides and to impose fines on individuals who share the shooter’s images or videos.

To do so, the report recommended companies take up livestreaming restrictions, like identity-verification requirements and streaming delays, to catch violent video footage before it goes online.

In addition, James’ office is also recommending changes to Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act, which requires companies to “take reasonable steps to prevent unlawful violent criminal content from appearing on their platforms.”

“The tragic shooting in Buffalo exposed the real dangers of unmoderated online platforms that have become breeding grounds for white supremacy,” James said in a statement.

While the New York Attorney General’s Office has acted aggressively to prevent the tragic events in Buffalo from being repeated, including strengthening gun laws and barring the sale of bullet-resistant vests to most civilians in the state, this report represents the most far-reaching effort by U.S. law enforcement to examine the role of the internet in a mass shooting.

 “This report is further proof that online radicalization and extremism is a serious threat to our communities, especially communities of color,” James said.

So far, James’ office has subpoenaed 4chan, 8kun, Reddit, Discord, Twitch and YouTube, as well as other online platforms where graphic content of the shooting or the shooter’s manifesto, appeared, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Rumble.

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