New York to investigate social media platforms used by Buffalo shooter

New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, on Wednesday said her office was investigating social media companies the Buffalo grocery store gunman used to plan, promote and stream the massacre that left 10 dead.

James said in a tweet her office will investigate Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord along with other platforms the shooter used to amplify the attack.

“This terror attack again revealed the depths and dangers of these platforms that spread and promote hate without consequence,” she wrote. “We are doing everything in our power to stop this dangerous behavior now and ensure it never happens again.“

The FBI said 18-year-old Payton Gendron, who is white, committed an act of “racially motivated violent extremism” when he opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on 14 May at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, shooting 13 people.

Gendron, who surrendered to police after the attack, released a 180-page manifesto rife with pseudo-scientific racism, antisemitic conspiracy theories and a call for others to mimic his violence. The document is largely copied and pasted from other extremists and from the far-right 4chan. He also used the social media platform Twitch – a live video service owned by Amazon – to broadcast the attack in real time.

Gendron has been jailed without bail on a charge of first-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty.

In a referral letter on Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul requested that James “investigate the specific online platforms that were used to broadcast and amplify the acts and intentions” of the suspect, the New York Times reported. Hochul on Sunday said the stream should have been taken down faster.

Hochul also on Wednesday said she hoped to strengthen the state’s red flag law by issuing an order for state police to seek emergency orders to stop individuals from possessing weapons if it is believed that they are a threat to themselves or others, the New York Times reported.

Red flag laws allow courts and local law enforcement officials to remove guns from people deemed a risk to communities.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate and extremist groups, told Reuters that the Buffalo gunman “had a substantial online history in niche, toxic online communities”.

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