BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report Tuesday after investigating social media’s role in radicalizing the suspected Tops mass shooter.
The more than 40-page-long report states, “anonymous, virtually unmoderated websites and platforms radicalized the shooter.” The office reviewed thousands of pages of documents and social media content, looking into how the alleged shooter used the platforms to plan and livestream his attack.
The report specifically pointed to “fringe online platforms,” like 4chan, as the suspect’s “indoctrination into internet hate culture.” It also states that site was the first to spread graphic content related to the shooting. The report also says the suspect used Twitch, a streaming service, to livestream the shooting.
The livestream, according to the report, lasted roughly 24 minutes long, and for most of that time the alleged shooter was driving his car to the Tops on Jefferson Avenue. Twitch stopped the livestream approximately two minutes after the first person was shot. The report noted between 22 and 28 people watched some parts of the livestream.
The alleged shooter, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is also reported to have used Discord to post racist diatribe, and had invited several users to a chat room on that site where he posted a link to the livestream and the contents of the racist diatribe and diary he had written leading up to the shooting.
The AG’s office states, “the First Amendment has no categorical exemption for hate speech; most of the content the shooter viewed is rankly offensive, but its creation and distribution cannot, constitutionally, be unlawful.”
Under the Communications Decency Act, (CDA) even when a user posts illegal content, social media platforms are largely “insulat[ed] from liability for claims related to their content moderation decisions.”
Because of this, AG James is calling now calling for federal and state reforms in order to combat the spread of online extremism. This includes state legislation that would criminalize images or videos made by “a perpetrator of a homicide.” The legislation would also penalize anyone who shares or reposts the same images or videos.
In the report, James also recommends making changes to the CDA to increase accountability of online platforms and social media sites, and make sure these companies prevent violent criminal content from appearing on their sites.