The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James released a 40-page report on the roles social media platforms played in radicalizing the white Buffalo shooter charged with killing ten Black people at Tops supermarket in May. They determined that suspect Payton Gendron was allowed to consume “voluminous amounts of racist and violent content,” and reforms are needed, ABC News reports.
From ABC News:
“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 accompanying the report’s release. “Today I met with the victims’ families to share the findings of this report. This report is further proof that online radicalization and extremism is a serious threat to our communities, especially communities of color.”
The main argument the report is trying to make is that the Buffalo shooting is not an isolated incident. Instead, it’s part of an “epidemic of mass shootings” often carried out by young men “radicalized online by an ideology of hate.” Gendron kept an online journal on Discord laying out “hateful” beliefs and plans for the attack for the public to see. He also posted graphic content and portions of a racist manifesto on 11 online sites, including 4chan, Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter.
Gendron’s Twitch live stream went on for 24 minutes. The report claims the alleged shooter was driving his car to the Tops supermarket for most of it. Twitch stopped the live stream approximately two minutes after the first person was shot. Both 22 and 28 people watched some parts of the live stream in total.
James and New York leaders like Governor Kathy Hochul have called for federal and state reforms to combat online extremism and violence. This would mean penalizing individuals directly who choose to repost and spread hateful content.
They also call on Congress to reform Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act. If this happens, the report hopes that possible legal action would spur online platforms to make their platforms safer and crack down on graphic content of hate and homicide.