Online platforms radicalized Buffalo mass shooting suspect, new report says
Five months after the deadly mass shooting that claimed the lives of 10 black people and injured three others at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, the New York Attorney General’s Office released a scathing report calling on the state legislature to pass new laws to stop live streaming. of homicides.
Released by State Attorney General Letitia James tuesdaythe 49-page report alleges that multiple online platforms played a role in the radicalization of the alleged shooter, 19-year-old Payton Gendron.
Federally, Gendron faces a 27-count indictment, including 10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death and three counts of hate crimes involving attempted murder. He has been held without bail since his arrest following the May 14 shooting.
The report analyzes Gendron’s use of online platforms, including social media
The attorney general’s office reviewed thousands of pages of documents and social media content to investigate how Gendron allegedly used online platforms to plan, prepare for and publicize the May 14 mass shooting, according to a news release.
The report also looked at several online platforms used by Gendron, including 4chan, 8kun, Reddit, Discord, Twitch, and YouTube. Additionally, officials reviewed social media platforms that displayed graphic content from the mass shooting or portions of the shooter’s writing, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Rumble.
“The tragic Buffalo shooting exposed the real dangers of unmoderated online platforms that have become fertile ground for white supremacy,” James said in the statement.
“Online platforms should be held accountable for allowing hateful and dangerous content to spread on their platforms,” she added.
Following the investigation, James and New York Governor Kathy Hochul are calling for federal and state reforms to take action against online extremism and violence.
“This report offers a chilling account of the factors that contributed to this incident and, most importantly, a roadmap to greater accountability,” Hochul said in the statement.
Experts say online spaces shouldn’t be the primary focus
Findings from the New York Attorney General’s office point to Gendron’s online writings and videos serving as an “instruction manual” for the next mass shooter.
The report argues that anonymous, unmoderated websites and platforms such as 4chan have influenced the shooter – while pointing out that live-streaming platforms such as Twitch have been ‘weaponised’ to raise awareness and encourage similar violent attacks.
However, experts say officials shouldn’t focus solely on online spaces when it comes to investigating mass shooters and their motivations.
“It’s not just about the online space. We can’t separate the online space from the real real world, the offline space that we live in,” said Humera Khan, president and co-founder of Muflehun, a think tank specializing in preventing radicalization and countering violent extremism.
“With individuals, no matter what is happening in the online space, we are also seeing changes in behavior in the offline space,” she added.
State Takes Action Against Rise in Hate Crimes
The findings of the newly released report come at a time when federal and state authorities are beginning to implement new initiatives brake and tackle hate crime incidents across New York.
In May, the Justice Department announced a series of new guidelines and $10 million in federal grants to help states develop hotlines for reporting incidents.
In August, Governor Hochul announced new guidelines to support the development of national terrorism prevention plans, pledging $10 million to help counties across the state.
And earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced the launch of an initiative to combat unlawful acts of hate across Buffalo. The newly created United Against Hate initiative will connect federal, state and local law enforcement with marginalized communities to “build trust” and encourage people to report hate crimes and incidents.
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