New York Attorney General Letitia James will launch an investigation into the role social media and online forums played in the tragedy that unfolded in Buffalo over the weekend.
On Saturday, an 18-year-old shooter opened fire at a Tops supermarket, killing 10 people and injuring three. In online material, the suspected shooter describes how the discovery of white supremacy on 4chan radicalized his thinking and ultimately inspired him to carry out the deadly attack.
The investigation was prompted by an appeal from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who urged social media to more aggressively monitor content for dangerous extremism in the days following the mass shooting.
“I request your assistance in investigating specific online platforms that were used to broadcast and disseminate information about the actions and intent of the mass shooting that took place in Buffalo on May 14, 2022, and in determining whether specific companies are civilly or criminally liable for their role. in encouraging, facilitating or providing a platform for planning and advocating violence,” Hochul wrote in letter to AG office on Wednesday.
The Attorney General’s office plans to check social apps and sites “including but not limited to” Twitch, Discord, 4chan and 8chan.
“Again and again we see the real devastation that these dangerous and hateful platforms are wreaking havoc and we are doing everything in our power to draw attention to this disturbing behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again. James said.
Her office did not provide details about the investigation, which links mainstream social media to content moderation and notorious centers of extremism like 4chan and 8chan. While the former is likely to report to the AG office, the latter two web forums are unlikely to go along with the investigation.
Based in the Philippines, 8chan in particular is a hotbed of activity for extremists plotting racially motivated violence. Mass shootings in El Paso, Christchurch, New Zealand, Poway, California, and now in Buffalo. posted their plans and ties on 8chan before their deadly attacks. In a journal entry before the attack, the Buffalo shooter noted that he would publish his entries on 8chan and 4chan, as well as send them to his Discord servers and friends list.
The 4chan web forum, which appears to be the main source of the suspected shooter’s ideals, refuses to make any active content moderation efforts and has long nurtured white supremacy and other dangerous forms of extremism.
Amazon-owned Twitch discovered the shooter’s live stream within two minutes of the violence beginning and removed the video, though it continues to circulate openly on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. It is unclear if the AG investigation will also look into the distribution of the graphic video, which has been copied many times and posted online.
The suspected shooter detailed his plans in private discord server and Google Docs, but none of the private digital spaces are scanned for extremist threats. The question of how much online platforms should monitor closed spaces is a tricky one given privacy concerns and existing laws, but it’s also a conversation we’re likely to hear a lot about in the coming days.
Credit: techcrunch.com /