BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the second day in a row, the civil case related to the Tops mass shooting was back in a Buffalo courtroom Friday. This time, arguments focused on the influence social media sites had on shooter Payton Gendron.
Attorneys representing some of the most popular social media sites argued why they should not be held responsible for Gendron’s actions.
In a case filed by three of the victims’ loved ones and a survivor of the shooting, the claim is that multiple social media platforms used by the shooter — including Discord, Twitch and Reddit — motivated him to commit a hate crime after he was exposed to racist, white supremacist content online. Gendron killed 10 people, all of whom were Black, at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue in May 2022.
But the defendant’s attorneys are calling for the case to be dismissed because they say the sites cannot be held responsible under the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — which, according to the Department of Justice, provides immunity to online platforms from civil liability based on third-party content.
The legal team for the victims doesn’t see it that way.
“If Payton Gendron had gone to Tops Market and stood on a milk crate and voiced his hateful, racist, white supremacist theories, it would’ve been a horrible thing to listen to,” attorney Matthew Bergman said, “but it would not have been a crime; it would have been protected by the First Amendment. We’re not talking about speech, we’re talking about murderous conduct. And we’re talking about algorithms and companies that encourage and radicalize people to commit unspeakable acts of racist cruelty. That’s not free speech, that’s something else.”
Thursday, attorneys for Mean Arms LLC made their arguments as to why they believe this case should be dismissed. The lawsuit claims the company makes a device the shooter used to modify his gun.
Judge Paula Feroleto did not make a decision on the motion to dismiss for either case. She hopes to have one in the near future.