After Buffalo Shooting Video Spreads, Social Platforms Face Questions

In March 2019, before a gunman murdered 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, he went live on Facebook to broadcast his attack. In October of that year, a man in Germany broadcast his own mass shooting live on Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestreaming site popular with gamers.

On Saturday, a gunman in Buffalo, N.Y., mounted a camera to his helmet and livestreamed on Twitch as he killed 10 people and injured three more at a grocery store in what the authorities said was a racist attack. In a manifesto posted online, Payton S. Gendron, the 18-year-old whom the authorities identified as the gunman, wrote that he had been inspired by the Christchurch gunman and others.

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Buffalo shooting: Sites yank videos faster, but not by much
Social platforms have learned to remove violent videos of extremist shootings more quickly over the past few years. It’s just not clear they’re moving quickly enough.

Police say that when a white gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others — most of them Black — in a “racially motivated violent extremist” shooting in Buffalo Saturday, he livestreamed the attack to the gaming platform Twitch, which is owned by Amazon. It didn’t stay there long; a Twitch spokesperson said it removed the video in less than two minutes.

Only 22 saw the Buffalo shooting live. Millions have seen it since.
Live-streamed from a camera mounted on the Buffalo gunman’s helmet, the video is hauntingly gruesome — a first-person view as he fires a rifle into 10 people, some of them crawling on the supermarket floor. When he discovers a light-skinned man hiding in a checkout aisle, the gunman spares him, saying, “Sorry.”

It is exactly the kind of horrific terrorist video that the world’s biggest tech companies have vowed to block. But two days after the shooting, the footage was still widely available online — just as the gunman had hoped, according to a screed he wrote beforehand, bringing more attention to his racist cause.

Livestreamed carnage: Tech’s hard lessons from mass killings
These days, mass shooters like the one now held in the Buffalo, New York, supermarket attack don’t stop with planning out their brutal attacks. They also create marketing plans while arranging to livestream their massacres on social platforms in hopes of fomenting more violence.

Sites like Twitter, Facebook and now the game-streaming platform Twitch have learned painful lessons from dealing with the violent videos that often accompany such shootings. But experts are calling for a broader discussion around livestreams, including whether they should exist at all, since once such videos go online, they’re almost impossible to erase completely.

Social platforms’ Buffalo shooting response called inadequate
Social-media sites are facing criticism for the spread of graphic and far-right material from Saturday’s attack in Buffalo, New York.

Campaign group Hope Not Hate called the response “wholly inadequate”.

The gunman livestreamed the fatal shooting of 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket on Twitch.

Twitch quickly took down the livestream, on Saturday – but Meta and Twitter’s moderation remains under scrutiny.

Twitch, a live-streaming giant, comes under scrutiny after Buffalo shooting
Twitch, the livestreaming giant popular among video gamers, has been thrust into the national spotlight after the suspect in the Buffalo grocery store mass shooting tried to broadcast the attack on the platform.

Twitch removed the livestream less than two minutes after the violence began on Saturday, a spokesperson for the company told CNN. Despite the quick action by Twitch to delete the content, clips and copies of the disturbing video of the shooting, which police says was a racially-motivated hate crime, quickly spread across other social media platforms over the weekend.

Following Buffalo shooting, 4chan shows how some platforms are accountable only to themselves
The mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, has put a spotlight on 4chan, a largely unmoderated site that has been the breeding ground for several tragedies and controversies over the years and appears to have played a role in inspiring Saturday’s attack.

Despite the role it may have played in the horrific events in Buffalo, the platform and its owner have not issued any statement. Links to copies of the graphic shooting video and praise for the gunman continue to pop up around the platform. This lack of action reveals a complicated truth about the internet landscape: An online platform that dismisses outside criticism from users and advertisers can host racist hate speech and facilitate user radicalization with few consequences.

What a racist massacre tells us about free speech online
The idea is appealing in its simplicity: Social networks should only take down posts if they violate the law. Otherwise, they should remain.

That’s how billionaire Elon Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” has suggested he would run Twitter if he succeeds in acquiring it. The idea has won Musk many fans, especially on the right, who have grown frustrated with social platforms deciding what users can say and what they can’t. Some Republican-led states are also passing laws that would make it illegal for tech companies to remove posts based on users’ viewpoints.

Elon Musk’s silence on how he’d moderate the Buffalo shooting livestream is deafening
On May 14th, social media platforms found themselves scrambling to deal with a livestream video of a white supremacist terror attack. Yet the man who has been the nation’s loudest commentator on content moderation had nothing to say.

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