New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday that her office will investigate several social media companies and online platforms related to the fatal attack in Buffalo over the weekend. Among those platforms, two that are commonly associated with gaming are Twitch and Discord, but the investigation will also target 4chan and 8chan, James said.
The attack that spurred this investigation occurred in Buffalo, New York on Saturday when 18-year-old Payton Gendron opened fire in a crowded supermarket. 10 people killed and three others injured. It was later discovered that Gendron had posted messages on various social media sites, including the one t he Attorney General’s Office is now investigating, to explain that his attack was racially motivated. Gendron, a white man, noted that he had chosen the attack area because of its concentration of black residents.
Gendron too went live on Twitch to stream the attack, but the live stream and his channel were only shut down after the attack. according to a Statement to CNN the footage was removed by a Twitch spokesman within two minutes.
“The terrorist attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depth and danger of online forums that spread and promote hatred,” Attorney General Letitia James said in her official announcement of the investigation. “The fact that one person can publish detailed plans to commit such an act of hate with no consequences and then stream it for the whole world to see is terrifying and unfathomable. As we continue to mourn and honor the lives stolen, we are taking serious action to investigate these companies for their role in this attack. Time and again we have seen the real devastation wrought by these dangerous and hateful platforms and we are doing everything in our power to spotlight this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again.”
It’s unclear what James means when she describes the platforms themselves as “dangerous”. It is also unclear what exactly this investigation might entail. While the press release says it is attempting to investigate platforms the shooter used to “plan, facilitate and stream” the attack, there are no explicit details about the upcoming investigation or any indication that it is based on their moderation or reporting policies. There is also no indication whether the investigations will focus on preventing future attacks or just analyzing the platforms themselves.
Polygon has reached out to James’ office for more details and will update this story with any response.
in one Statement to the New York Times, Twitch said, “Twitch has a zero tolerance policy for violence of any kind and works quickly to respond to any incidents. The user has been banned from our service indefinitely and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring any accounts re-broadcasting this content.”
in one Statement to CNN, a Discord spokesperson said it removed the server used by Gendron and related content “as soon as” it became aware of it after the shooting. “Our deepest sympathy goes to the victims and their families,” said a spokesman. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to countering violence and extremism.”