New York lawmakers are calling for widespread changes to state and federal laws after a new report on the Buffalo mass shooting found the gunman had been “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 May shooting, according to the report by AG Letitia James and Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Gendron, 19, has been indicted on 27 charges — including hate crimes and firearms — for the cold-blooded shooting of 10 black people in a Tops supermarket. He pleaded not guilty and has been in prison since May.
The report claims that the shooter’s access to certain online content not only enabled his “radicalization” but also gave him practical tips on how to carry out the attack.
“We also need to reduce the ability of perpetrators of these crimes to promote their criminal acts while promoting their hateful ideologies,” James said in the report.
She and Hochul are now calling for stricter regulation of online platforms to prevent similar attacks and violent content sharing, including:
- Criminal prosecution of people who make videos or images of murder cases
- Civil penalties for people who share that content
- Federal law changes penalizing online platforms for posting violent content on their sites
- Verify users who are livestreaming content and may be slowing down livestreams so it can be moderated for violence
- Transparency of online platforms in their moderation process and restriction of hateful, extremist or racist content
- Industry-wide procedures and technology to monitor content – and for domain and web hosting companies to ‘stand between online platforms and users’
Payton Gendron carried out the ‘great replacement’-inspired genocide at Tops Supermarket in May, leaving ten dead.
Ten people were killed in the shooting at the Buffalo supermarket (pictured). Gendron’s attack was intended to attack 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 a lot of black people shop there
The 47-page report reveals how online platforms contributed to the mass shooting in Buffalo and made recommendations to prevent others.
“For too long, hatred and division have spread rampantly across online platforms — and as we saw in my hometown of Buffalo, the effects are devastating,” Hochul said in a statement published on 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 thriving online and we must all work together to face this crisis and protect our children and communities.”
She added: “We’ve seen this happen in Christchurch, Charlottesville, El Paso and Buffalo, and we can’t wait for another tragedy to happen before we take action.”
The AG’s report suggests that Gendron relied on forums such as Reddit to learn more about the tactical gear he would eventually use in the shooting.
The New York Attorney General, whose office released the 47-page report, said similar online forces were responsible for shootings in Christchurch, Charlottesville, El Paso.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called for an investigation into the role Internet platforms played in the shooting.
The report also looked at how Gendron was able to spread a racist manifesto associated with his attack.
The basis for that manifesto was ideologies such as “white genocide,” the “great replacement,” the report found.
The report said the shooter’s manifesto was the product of “various racist theories and memes largely copied from extremist message boards and manifestos left by mass shooters of the past.”
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 combined with immigration will lead to the extermination of the white race.
The report is scathing for the fringe online platform 4chan, which allows users to share photos and threads, because it is “strongly linked” to Gendron’s indoctrination into internet hate culture.
Another, Discord, is an online messaging platform that the gunman is accused of keeping 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.
It found that Gendron relied on Reddit to learn about tactical clothing and gear of the kind he eventually donned while carrying out the supermarket shooting.
Gendron was also involved in “subreddits” that inquired about the types of ammunition he would use for the premeditated attack.
Video streaming platform Twitch was another platform that Gendron used to broadcast the violence.
The report even touched on YouTube because Gendron used the platform to watch videos explaining how to modify his weapon to accept detachable magazines.
Governor Kathy Hochul outside the supermarket where Gendron’s racist shooting took place. Buffalo is the birthplace of Hochul
Gendron posted an image of the weapon he used in the attack online. He wrote vulgar words on it, including the names of other white supremacists
FBI Investigators at the Scene of the Buffalo Tops Supermarket Shooting
The report recommends restrictions on live streaming, suggesting “authentication requirements and tape delays” would help reduce first-person violence in video streams.
The report also examines how graphic content related to the Buffalo shooting was allowed to spread online.
It proposes new legislation to punish those involved in the distribution of images or videos related to a murder.
“Such videos are an extension of the original offense and serve to incite or solicit more offences,” the report said.
Certain laws also protect online platforms from liability for material they host on their sites. The report suggests taking “reasonable steps to prevent illegal criminal content from appearing” on platforms.
The report also targets web hosting and domain registration companies, as they are “between edge sites and users.”