Twitch and Discord are among a group of social media companies under investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James after the horrific shooting that took place in Buffalo on May 14.
Attorney General James says the 18-year-old suspected of having claimed 10 lives in a Buffalo supermarket may have used social media to “discuss and amplify his intentions and actions”, and is therefore launching an investigation that specifically targets Twitch, Discord, 4chan, and 8chan, and what role they may have played in the attack, which police are calling a hate crime.
“The Buffalo terror attack has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate,” Attorney General James said. “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 heart-pounding and unfathomable.
“As we continue to mourn and honor the lives that were stolen, we are taking serious action to investigate these companies for their role in this attack. Time and again we have seen the real devastation carried by these dangerous and hateful platforms, and we are doing everything we can to bring attention to this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again.”
In a press release, the attorney general cites reports alleging that the alleged gunman had posted online for months prior to the shooting about his hatred of specific groups and shared white supremacist theories. He has also been reported to discuss plans online about possible attacks on an elementary school, church and other places in predominantly black communities. The attacker publicly streamed his actions on social media and shared a 180-page manifesto online in which he clearly set out his hateful views.
New York Governor Katherine Hochul has been critical of social media CEOs in the wake of the attack and was the one who formally requested the Attorney General to investigate the said companies and determine whether they bear “civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating or providing a platform for planning and promoting violence.”
“We must respect the individual rights of the First Amendment, but when individuals use online platforms to promote and plan for violence, it raises questions about the role of social media platforms in promoting violence. These questions need to be answered,” Hochul wrote.