Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch said it had removed a live stream from a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York over the weekend within two minutes of it going live. However, this response time was not enough to prevent recordings of the footage from being shared on other online platforms such as Facebook, where links to the heinous act remained accessible for hours. This again raises the question of how much social media companies are really investing in moderating malicious content.
The May 14 mass shooting, apparently part of an attack by white supremacists, killed 10 people, wounded three others and is being investigated as a hate crimeIt was streamed live to around 20 other users via the “jimboboiii” account, according to screenshots of the now-deleted Twitch channel. The channel’s only previous broadcast was reportedly a “test” to make sure the streaming setup was working. While the shooter appeared to have discussed his plans months in advance on Discord and possibly other social media platforms, it’s unclear who the viewing accounts were and how they knew to turn on the unknown Twitch channel right after it went live.
“Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy towards violence of any kind and works quickly to respond to any incidents,” a company spokesman said my box. “The user has been indefinitely banned from our service and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring any accounts re-broadcasting this content.” Twitch did not immediately respond to a request for comment about who was viewing the channel.
Whoever owned those accounts, one or more apparently managed to download footage from the live stream and share it on other platforms, where it remained accessible long after the tragedy struck. One clip in particular, uploaded to Streamable, garnered over 3 million views and was viewable for up to a full day after shooting, according to a screenshot from Archive.org.
Although the video has since been removed for violating Streamable’s Terms of Service, it managed to circulate on Facebook for up to 9 hours. The New York Times reports. Some users who reported the video to Facebook for malicious content shared this Times They received a message back that the platform’s terms of service were not violated. A Facebook spokesman confirmed this The New York Times that the video was indeed a violation, but could not explain why some users had received contrary notifications. Axios, on the other hand reports
According to the New York Times, Footage of the mass shooting also circulated on Twitter and in some cases was uploaded directly to the platform. A company spokeswoman initially said the site might remove some instances of the video or add a warning about sensitive content, later Twitter said Twitter would remove all videos related to the attack afterward The times asked for clarification,” the publication wrote.
Based on a manifesto believed to belong to the police officer identified as the shooter, the Buffalo mass shooting was inspired in part by the 2019 Christchurch mass shooting in New Zealand, among other recent atrocities. The Christchurch murders were infamously broadcast for an extended period of time on Facebook Live
Social media platforms have a long history inconsistent and botched moderation, but live stream footage has to come from somewhere. In the case of Twitch, it’s extremely easy to set up a new account and start broadcasting right away. All you need is an email address. The mobile app advertises “Go live in five”. It takes less than a minute to create a new account and start live streaming from your phone. This way of democratizing content sharing has obvious benefits. It also makes places like Twitch and Facebook Live uniquely vulnerable to amplifying despicable acts.
In the wake of this latest attack, politicians like New York Governor Kathy Hochul are already calling for closer scrutiny of technology platforms when it comes to hate speech and other harmful content. “I want them to sit in the room, look me in the eye and also tell me, have you done everything humanly possible to ensure that you monitor this content as soon as it enters your platform?” Hochul said in a press conference on Sunday. “If you’re not, then I’ll blame you. So prove to me that there is nothing else to do.”