Updated Oct 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Buffalo mass shooting suspect was "radicalized" online, New York officials say

A memorial is displayed at Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue on July 14, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.

A memorial in Buffalo, New York. Photo: John Normile/Getty Images

The New York state attorney general's office and governor on Tuesday released the findings of an investigative report on the role of online platforms in the mass shooting in Buffalo earlier this year.

Why it matters: The report is another indication that radicalization on fringe platforms and the pipeline of online, right-wing misinformation to the real world has played a major role in recent mass shootings.

Details: New York Attorney General Letitia James said in the report that the suspect, Payton Gendron, "was first indoctrinated and radicalized through online platforms."

  • The radicalization happened “by explicitly racist, bigoted, and violent content he viewed online on 4chan, Reddit, and elsewhere," James said in the report.
  • She also said that fringe platforms — such as 4chan — can fuel radicalization and later damage vulnerable communities.

Context: The suspect live-streamed the shooting on Twitch for about two minutes and screenshots of it circulated online in the days and hours after.

  • The report found that live streaming has become a tool for mass shooters. James said live streams need to be regulated better in the future.
  • “Even this relatively short video is enough for the horrific content to spread widely and to inspire future shooters,” she wrote.

What they're saying: "The tragic shooting in Buffalo exposed the real dangers of unmoderated online platforms that have become breeding grounds for white supremacy," James said in a statement.

  • "This report offers a chilling account of factors that contributed to this incident and, importantly, a road map toward greater accountability," added New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement.

The big picture: Radicalization has played a role in previous mass shootings and their aftermath. In fact, shootings often promote misinformation and conspiracy theories, which drive even more discussion about radical and extreme ideas, Axios reports.

  • Many shootings have been tied to online dark subcultures, which thrive off violence and nihilism, NPR reports.

Yes, but: Elected officials and major tech leaders are aware of persistent threads and have taken some steps to promote change — with varying degrees of success.

What's next: James, a Democrat, called for federal and state reforms to combat online extremism and violence.

  • More companies should commit to changing their policies regarding radicalized individuals, James said in the report.
  • Platforms and individuals should be liable for those images and videos, too, according to the report.
  • There should also be limits on live streaming, more transparency from online platforms and better procedures from platforms for identifying potentially dangerous content, per the report.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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