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Online Platforms Influenced Buffalo Shooter, State Report Finds

New York Attorney General Tish James and Gov. Kathy Hochul called for reforms to combat online extremism after finding that internet platforms played a role in the racially motivated shooting at a Buffalo supermarket this year that killed 10 people and wounded three, Politico reports. The officials issued a report concluding that "fringe online platforms, like 4chan, radicalized the shooter; livestreaming platforms, like Twitch, were weaponized to publicize and encourage copycat violent attacks; and a lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability of these platforms allowed hateful and extremist views to proliferate online, leading to radicalization and violence.” Hochul has announced actions to strengthen gun laws in New York and quell the spread of white supremacy online. James studied the role that online platforms played in the 18-year-old shooter’s reported white supremacist ideology in the largely Black community.

Investigators reviewed thousands of pages of documents, social media content and policies practiced by the platforms. James’ office said it subpoenaed several platforms used by the shooter, including 4chan, 8kun, Reddit, Discord, Twitch and YouTube, and other online platforms where graphic content of the shooting or the shooter’s manifesto appeared, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Rumble. Payton Gendron was indicted after the May 14 shooting. Police said he drove about three hours from his home in New York’s southern tier with the intent to kill as many Black people as possible. He livestreamed the shooting from a helmet-mounted camera. Hochul and James are now calling for reforms at both state and federal levels to combat online extremism. They favor state legislation that would criminalize graphic images or videos created by a perpetrator of a homicide and penalize people who reshare or repost those images or videos. They are also recommending changes to Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act to require companies “take reasonable steps to prevent unlawful violent criminal content from appearing on their platforms.”


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