On May 14, a gunman killed ten people and injured three others in a racially motivated attack on a supermarket in Buffalo. The suspect livestreamed the attack via Twitch, a platform now under investigation by the New York Attorney General. It’s not the only social media company under scrutiny: platforms like 4chan, 8chan, Discord and unnamed others will also be scrutinized for the role they played in “amplifying this attack”.
“My office is launching investigations into the social media companies the Buffalo gunman used to plan, promote and stream his terror attack,” New York Attorney General Letitia James announced. “We’re investigating Twitch, 4chan, 8chan, and Discord, among others, all platforms the shooter has used to amplify this attack.”
James added: “The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate. For the world to see is blood-curdling and unfathomable.”
In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, the role of social media platforms in distributing videos of live mass shootings and the moderation policies of these platforms have been questioned. The Christchurch shooter in 2019 also streamed his attack live and chose Facebook as the platform, and it’s this video that the Buffalo shooter said he took inspiration from.
The attacker found the Christchurch recording video on 4chan and used Discord to link to his Twitch live stream — reasons why both Discord and 4chan have been named in the New York Attorney General’s investigation. The New York AG is also under investigation over reports of the gunman actively posting online for months, discussing theories of white supremacy and even talking publicly about “potential plans to open an elementary school, church and other locations.” terrorizing them, which he thought would be of considerable magnitude.” community of black people.”
The New York AG is conducting this investigation with reference to Governor Hochul and will investigate whether or not the platforms associated with the shooter’s activities will have “civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating or providing a platform to promote planning and violence.”
Twitch was able to shut down the live stream and suspend the user within two minutes, according to company statements to multiple news sites, but re-uploaded images still made their way to other sites. Moderating live streams – especially for a platform like Twitch with a huge user base – and preventing recorded footage of mass shootings from circulating online remains a problem with no clear solution.