New York lawmakers are calling for widespread changes to state and federal laws after a new report into the Buffalo mass shooting found the shooter was ‘radicalized’ by fringe online platforms.
Shooter Payton Gendron relied on platforms and forums such as 4chan, Reddit, Discord, Twitch and YouTube at various stages before the shooting in May, the report released by AG Letitia James and Gov. Kathy Hochul found.
Gendron, 19, has been charged with 27 counts – including hate crimes and firearms charges – for gunning down 10 black people in cold blood in a Tops supermarket. He has pleaded not guilty, and has been held in custody since May.
The report claims that not only did the shooter’s access to certain online content enable his ‘radicalization’ but it also provided him with practical tips on how to execute the attack.
‘We must also reduce the ability of perpetrators of these crimes from promoting their criminal acts and from promoting their hateful ideologies in the process,’ James said in the report.
She and Hochul are now calling for stricter regulation of online platforms to prevent similar attacks and the sharing of violent content, including:
- Criminal prosecution for people who create homicide videos or images
- Civil penalties for people who share that content
- Federal law changes that penalize online platforms if violent content is posted on their sites
- Verifying users who livestream content, and potentially delay livestreams so they can be moderated for violence
- Transparency of online platforms in their moderation process and the restriction of hateful, extremist or racist content
- Industry-wide procedures and technology to monitor content – and for domain and web hosting companies to ‘stand in between online platforms and users’
Payton Gendron carried out the ‘great replacement’-inspired genocide in Tops Supermarket in May, killing ten
Ten people (pictured) were killed in the shooting at the Buffalo supermarket. Gendron’s attack was intended to target black people and was inspired by radical ideologies he encountered on internet platforms
Gendron said in his writings that he targeted the Tops supermarket because many black people shopped there
The 47-page report exposes how online platforms contributed to the Buffalo mass shooting and went on to make recommendations to prevent others.
‘For too long, hate and division have been spreading rampant on online platforms — and as we saw in my hometown of Buffalo, the consequences are devastating,’ said Hochul in a statement accompanying the release of the report.
Letitia James said: ‘Online platforms should be held accountable for allowing hateful and dangerous content to spread on their platforms.
‘Extremist content is flourishing online, and we must all work together to confront this crisis and protect our children and communities.’
She added: ‘We saw this happen in Christchurch, Charlottesville, El Paso, and Buffalo, and we cannot wait for another tragedy before we take action.’
The AG’s report suggests that Gendron relied on forums like Reddit to learn about the tactical equipment he would eventually use in the shooting
NY Attorney General whose office released the 47-page report said that similar online forces were responsible for shootings in Christchurch, Charlottesville, El Paso
NY Governor Kathy Hochul called for an inquest into the role internet platforms played in the shooting pays respects to its victims
The report also looked at how Gendron was able to circulate a racist manifesto that accompanied his attack.
Underpinning that manifesto were ideologies such as ‘white genocide’ the ‘great replacement, the report found.
The report said that the shooter’s manifesto was a product of ‘different racist theories and memes largely copied from extremist message boards and manifestos left by past mass shooters.’
According to the report ‘white genocide’ describes the decline of the white race and the idea that it is being replaced by other ethnic groups.
‘Great replacement’ is a theory that declining white birth rates paired with immigration will result in the eradication of the white race.
The report is scathing of the fringe online platform 4chan, which allows users to share photos and threads, for being ‘strongly linked’ to Gendron’s indoctrination into internet hate culture.
Another, Discord, is an online messaging platform which the shooter is accused of using to keep a diary in the run up to the attack. He also used Discord on the day of the shooting to stream the attack and invite others to watch along.
It found that Gendron relied on Reddit to learn about tactical clothing and equipment of the sort he eventually donned while carrying out the supermarket shooting.
Gendron was also involved in ‘subreddits’ that informed the types of ammunition he would use for the premeditated attack.
Video streaming platform Twitch was another platform Gendron used to broadcast the violence.
The report even implicated YouTube because Gendron used the website to watch videos instructing him how to modify his gun to accept detachable magazines.
Governor Kathy Hochul outside the supermarket at which Gendron’s racist shooting took place. Buffalo is Hochul’s hometown
Gendron posted an image of the gun he used in the attack online. He wrote vulgar words including the names of other white supremacists on it
FBI investigators at the scene of the shooting at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo
The report recommends that there should be restrictions on live streaming, suggesting that ‘verification requirements and tape delays’ would help to mitigate first-person violence in video streams.
The report also examines the way in which graphic content related to the Buffalo shooting was allowed to propagate online.
It proposes new legislation to penalize those involved in the distribution of images or video relating to a homicide.
‘Such videos are and extension of the original criminal act and serve to incite or solicit additional criminal acts,’ reads the report.
Certain legislation also protects online platforms against liability for material they host on their sites. The report proposes that ‘reasonable steps to prevent unlawful criminal content from appearing’ on platforms should be taken.
The report also takes aim at companies involved with web hosting and domain registration as they ‘stand in between fringe sites and users’.