May 17, 2022 - Podcasts

How to end the live streaming of mass murder

The deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, New York this weekend was live streaming on Twitch for two minutes before it was taken down. But the video of the shooting was easy to re-upload on multiple platforms, and has now been watched millions of times. The gunman said that the ability to live stream was part of his motivation to commit the crime. Should tech companies step up?

  • Plus, answers to your lingering questions about Roe v. Wade and its future.
  • And, a fix on the horizon for the infant formula shortage.

Guests: Axios' Ina Fried; Shefali Luthra, health reporter for The 19th

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Tuesday, May 17th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today: answers to your lingering questions about Roe v. Wade and its future. Plus, a fix on the horizon for the formula shortage. But first, today’s One Big Thing: how to end the live streaming of mass murder.

NIALA: The deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, this weekend was live-streaming on the app Twitch for two minutes before it was taken down. But that video of the shooting was easy to re-upload on multiple platforms and it's now been watched millions of times. And the gunman said the ability to live stream was part of his motivation to commit the crime. Here to break down the responsibilities of tech companies when it comes to these live streams is Ina Fried, Axios’ chief technology correspondent. Hi Ina.


NIALA: So, you know, two minutes seems like pretty fast, but when we look at the effect of that, I think the question that everyone's wondering is, why wasn't this video taken down sooner?

INA: Well, I mean, if you think about how many videos are going at once on Twitch or YouTube or any of the live streaming ones, you know, somebody has to report it or an AI algorithm has to catch it. And with live video, that's pretty tough because you can't use, you know, algorithms that are looking for previously uploaded stuff. I mean, Twitch took it down remarkably quick. I think there's two other areas where tech is rightfully getting criticism. One, as you mentioned, is how many people have seen it since then on a whole wide range of platforms. And then the other area which we can get into is the degree to which the shooter was also steeped in hate online, which is probably the bigger factor here.

NIALA: Right. Let’s just stay with the technology for just a moment, because I had a chance to speak with Congressman John Katko. His district is just next to Buffalo and Syracuse, and he's also a ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, which has flagged the digital nature of these mass shootings as a cause for a security concern.

JOHN KATKO: To wear a camera and livestream killing people is something that we've got to do everything can and use every technology at our disposal to try and prevent.

NIALA: So Ina, what can be done in the future to prevent these kinds of videos from being so widely shared from a technological standpoint?

INA: There's already a lot of fingerprinting and matching algorithms being used so that the companies can say, when something like this happens and did, we don't want this video popping back up, we don't want versions of it. But the technology clearly is not as good as it needs to be when millions of people are still able to view the videos. So very clearly there is still a technology problem here.

NIALA: One of the things Representative Katko pointed out to me is how many of these shooters have taken inspiration from each other and to your point, it's the technology that in many ways has steeped them in this hate. Do tech companies see themselves as responsible for their role in this culture?

INA: Well, tech companies see themselves as reflecting the culture and would argue this is happening regardless of them. But I think a lot of critics are saying that Tech's responsibility goes beyond just being part of it and a lot of this hate is being fomented online. And there is a circular effect of these mass attackers, these shooters are able to, you know, air their grievances and preserve for posterity what they did. And they do end up inspiring others. And so the key is obviously preventing the spread of that hate beforehand.

NIALA: Axios’ chief technology correspondent, Ina Fried. Thanks Ina.

INA: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: And by the way, you can see my entire interview with Representative Katko in an Axios virtual event on the cyber threat landscape of 2022. That is going to be done with Ina as well. That's today at 12:30 ET. It'll also be available after the fact. We'll put a link in our show notes.

In a moment, we’re back with how the Roe v Wade draft decision could affect other legal cases.

Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

It's primary day in several states - Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Political consultants and activists are watching for how the anticipated Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade will play out in some of these races, especially in GOP-led swing states.

We've also been hearing from many of you with questions about the history of Roe v Wade, and what the end of Roe could mean for other major court decisions of the last half century.

Shefali Luthra is here with me to go deeper on this – she's a health reporter with the 19th. Hi Shefali.

SHEFALI LUTHRA: Hi. Thanks for having.

NIALA: Can we start by breaking down the 1973 decision? What was the framework that Roe v Wade came under?

SHEFALI: Sure. So the 1973 decision was of course the first to assert the right to an abortion was found in the constitution. And it did so based on the idea that the constitution confers a right to privacy and that abortion stems from that. The way it looked at it was that we have the right to an abortion up until the third trimester. It was then revised in 1992 when they replaced it in a subsequent case Planned Parenthood v Casey, to look at what's called viability instead. And that just means when a fetus can live outside the womb on its own. Varies from pregnancy to pregnancy, but often happens around 22 to 25 weeks.

NIALA: Can we just focus on this concept of viability? Because I think people will hear this and it is a bit complex. What do we need to know about the legal concept of viability as it relates to abortion law in this country?

SHEFALI: Certainly. So the idea about viability right, is when you become pregnant, there's a collection of cells in your body, right that, that cannot live outside independently. And the notion of when does this sort of collection of cells become a person who, who is protected right by the laws of this country, has been what the court has been trying to wrestle with.

NIALA: Where is the line for viability now legally?

SHEFALI: Right now, it's in this nebulous 22 to 25 weeks right. And that's sort of why any abortion ban before 22 weeks gets legally tricky. The most success that we've seen with states trying to pass gestational bans has been 20 weeks because that's pretty close to viability, but anything earlier than 20 weeks hasn't been able to stand scrutiny until now.

NIALA: Shefali. It's interesting that you say that Roe v. Wade was based on a constitutional right to privacy because that's actually not specifically enshrined in the constitution. Like there's not like an amendment that says people have a right to privacy.

SHEFALI: That's correct. And that's exactly what Justice Alito was talking about right. In his decision is he sort of argued that privacy doesn't exist in the constitution that this was a made up tight. And that's the basis in a lot of ways for his argument to overturn Roe. That said, I mean, a lot of rights that we take for granted, aren't specifically spelled out in the Constitution. When the justices wrote Roe v Wade in the 1970s, they came to the conclusion that it's very clear, even if it's not said that the Constitution gives the right to privacy. We're getting now into ideas of, right of sort of judicial scholarship and how folks approach Constitutional theory.

NIALA: So how would we see an impact on other ma major Supreme court decisions or precedents? If we go down this road that Alito established in this draft,

SHEFALI: this is where it gets really interesting and complicated, right? Because we know that this is a draft decision. We know it's dated to February and the justices, they really revise these things very heavily. What we do know right is that at this point, there are still a majority set to overturn. But the notion that privacy is this sort of fundamental weakness, it does open the door a lot of legal experts are saying to get into the notions of same-sex marriage to get into questions of contraceptive rights, to get into notions of whether the constitution protects the right people to have sex with someone of the same gender. And these are rights that are sort of different because there aren't all these laws and efforts to restrict them the way there had been with abortion for 50 years now. But overturning Roe certainly creates a world where those rights are much more vulnerable.

NIALA: Shefali Luthra covers healthcare for the 19th. Thanks, Shefali.

SHEFALI : Thank you.

NIALA: If you have more questions about this decision and the original Roe vs. Wade case, you can text them to me at (202) 918-4893 and we'll try to find some answers for you.

Before we go today, an update on the baby formula shortage story we’ve been following on the podcast: Abbott Nutrition said yesterday it had reached a deal with the FDA to reopen its infant formula plant in Michigan, after an FDA recall had resulted in the facility’s closure. This could mean more baby formula will finally be back on shelves, but it will be at least a couple of months. You can read more at

That’s it for us today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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