New York Attorney General to investigate social media platforms that hosted footage of Buffalo massacre

Officials will probe how Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord were used to ‘discuss and amplify’ plans for mass shooting in Black neighbourhood

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 18 May 2022 20:18
Biden condemns ‘poison’ of white supremacy following Buffalo shooting
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The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James will investigate social media platforms that hosted content used to “stream, promote or plan” an apparent racist massacre in Buffalo that killed 10 people and injured three others.

Ms James named livestream service Twitch as well as message boards 4chan and 8chan and the messaging platform Discord, which investigators believe the suspected gunman and avowed white supremacist Payton Gendron “used to discuss and amplify his intentions and acts to carry out this attack.”

“The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate,” she said in a statement on 18 May. “The fact that an individual can post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequence, and then stream it for the world to see is bone-chilling and unfathomable.”

Ms James condemned the “real-world devastation that is borne of these dangerous and hateful platforms” as the investigation intends to “shine a spotlight on this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again.”

Law enforcement has reported that Gendron’s extensive social media footprint reveal weeks of planning before he targeted the Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in New York’s second-largest city.

Investigators also uncovered a 180-page “manifesto” that circulated online before the attack, which was livestreamed on Twitch and shared widely in screenshots and other video captures that have evaded other social media platforms.

In the wake of the killings, a company announcement from Twitch said it was “devastated” by the news, adding that the account “has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content.”

Posts on Discord were visible to a “private, invite-only” group roughly 30 minutes before the shootings began on May 14, according to a statement from the platform.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families,” the company said in a statement. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to combating violence and extremism. We are continuing to do everything we can to assist law enforcement and the investigation remains ongoing.”

In remarks to Buffalo’s True Bethel Baptist Church on Sunday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul condemned “instruments of this evil, the social media platforms that allow this hatred to ferment and spread like a virus — it’s spreading around the world as we speak.”

She has demanded that chief executives for social media companies be “held accountable and assure all of us that they’re taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information,” she told ABC News on Sunday.

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