Social Media of Buffalo Shooting Investigated by New York Attorney General

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced On Wednesday, her office will launch an investigation into the social media channels the suspect in the Buffalo shooting is using to “plan, promote and stream” his attack. Payton Gendron, 18, reportedly detailed his shooting plan and racist ideals on several social media platforms, including Discord, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The New York investigation will include Discord, “including but not limited to” Twitch, 4chan and 8chan, the attorney general said.

Gendron is accused to walk into a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York on Saturday and open fire, kill 10 people† Federal officials have said they believe Gendron was motivated in his attack by a racially motivated desire to kill as many black people as possible, and are investigating the shooting as “a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” Garland said. Gendron pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, the most serious murder charge under New York law.

Federal authorities think they have more than 600 messages written by Gendron on Discord which revealed that he may have planned the attack months in advance and even wondered why he hadn’t been approached by the FBI yet. The messages, which officials say are authentic, were riddled with racist and anti-Semitic language.

“The Buffalo terror attack has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate,” James said Wednesday. “The fact that a person can post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequences, and then stream it for the world to see, is heart-pounding and unfathomable. As we continue to mourn and honor the lives that have been stolen , we are taking serious steps to investigate these companies for their role in this attack.”

Mass shooting in Buffalo, New York: 10 dead
BUFFALO, NY – MAY 18: A memorial across the street from Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue and Riley Street on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Buffalo, NY.

Kent Nishimura

New York Governor Kathy Hochul added Wednesday that she referred James to investigate the social platforms that “legitimized” Gendron’s extremist replacement theory. The referral allows James to “submit witnesses and coerce the production of documents” in an effort to investigate public safety matters.

“Social media platforms must take responsibility and be held accountable for favoring engagement over public safety,” Hochul said Wednesday.

In a statement to CBS News, Discord said it will cooperate with James’ investigation. The company also added that although Gendron had a diary chat log on a private server, no one else saw the messages until 30 minutes before the attack.

At a news conference Wednesday, Broome County District Attorney Michael A. Korchak said online speech investigations could be difficult because of the First Amendment, but agreed that social media platforms populated by racist ideals are “something that needs to be monitored.”

Michael Kaplan and Andres Triay contributed to the report.

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