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Many YouTube Videos That Helped Buffalo Shooter Remain On Site

In the months leading up to the May 14 massacre at a Buffalo supermarket, accused gunman Payton Gendron turned to YouTube to plot his attack. One video explained how to remove a lock that prevents semi-automatic rifles from accepting high-capacity magazines. Another video taught civilians how to “win” gun battles through military-style preparation and training. “I’ve just been sitting around watching YouTube and (stuff) for the last few days,” the gunman wrote in his online diary. “I think this is the closest I’ll ever be to being ready.” Like other social media platforms, YouTube has struggled to moderate content related to guns and firearms. Amid a growing epidemic of gun violence, and under pressure from federal lawmakers, the site has scrambled to crack down on videos that sell firearms or instruct users how to build or modify guns.

But five years after YouTube began ramping up its restrictions on firearms content, many videos that informed the accused May 14 shooter – and others like them – remain on the site. A Buffalo News investigation found two dozen YouTube videos that demonstrate how to make semi-automatic rifles fully automatic, link to blueprints for 3D-printed guns or sell illegal gun accessories and parts – including 11 videos at the heart of a federal weapons trafficking case against the YouTube gun influencer Matthew Hoover. The News cataloged dozens of videos that do not violate YouTube’s current policies, but that do provide instructions for shooting other people. YouTube is the single most popular social network among Americans. A study by researchers at Brown University found that roughly 7.3 million American adults use it each day to watch gun content. YouTube said it removed thousands of videos after the attack in Buffalo and conducted a formal review of all the videos in the shooter's diatribe and online journal. The platform also "removed numerous videos surfaced by the Buffalo News for violating our firearms policy," spokesperson Jack Malon said.


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