On May 14, a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others in a racist attack at a Buffalo grocery store. The suspect live-streamed the attack via Twitch, a platform now under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office. It’s not the only social media company under scrutiny: Platforms including 4chan, 8chan, Discord and other unnamed ones will also be investigated for their role in “amplifying this attack.”
“My office is launching investigations into the social media companies the Buffalo shooter used to plan, promote and broadcast his terror attack,” New York Attorney General Letitia James announced. “We are investigating Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord, among others, all the platforms the shooter used to amplify this attack.”
James added: “The terrorist attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depth and danger of online forums that spread and promote hate. The fact that an individual could post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequence and then broadcasting it for the world to see is chilling and unfathomable.”
In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, the role of social media platforms in disseminating live video of mass shootings and the moderation policies of these platforms have been questioned. The Christchurch shooter in 2019 also broadcast his attack live and chose Facebook as a platform, and it is this same video that the Buffalo shooter said he was inspired by.
The shooter found the video of the Christchurch shooting on 4chan and used Discord to connect 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 conducting an investigation due to reports about the shooter who actively posted online for months discussing white supremacist theories and even speaking publicly about “potential plans to terrorize an elementary school, church and other places that I thought would have a significant impact. community of black people to attack.
The New York AG is conducting this investigation at the referral of Governor Hochul and will look at whether or not the platforms connected to the shooter’s activities will bear “civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating, or providing a platform for plan and promote violence.
Twitch was able to shut down the live stream and suspend the user in less than two minutes, according to statements given by the company to various news sites, but the uploaded footage still made its way to other sites. Moderating live streams, especially for a platform like Twitch with a massive user base, and preventing recorded footage of mass shootings from circulating online remains an issue with no clear solution.