October 19, 2022 – Top New York state officials have recommended legislation to criminalise the creation of videos depicting violence on online platforms in light of the May 14 Buffalo mass shooting, which was livestreamed by the attacker.
The attack took place at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The gunman, dubbed a “white supremacist” in the US media, filmed what has been termed as “racially motivated” violence with a GoPro video camera attached to his helmet. The attack was livestreamed on Twitch, which disabled it within two minutes after the carnage began. Ten Black people were killed and three were left wounded.
The recommendations have been made by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Kathy Hochul in a report that examines the role of online platforms in spreading racist hate and influencing individuals to carry out acts of hate-inspired violence. The attacker behind the Buffalo mass shooting was radicalised by racist content on online platforms, including Reddit, 8chan, and 4chan, according to the report.
“We recommend that New York (and other states) impose criminal liability for the creation by the perpetrator of a homicide, or someone acting in concert with the perpetrator, of images or videos depicting the homicide,” AG James said in the report. “Such videos are an extension of the original criminal act and serve to incite or solicit additional criminal acts.”
The most viral video of the shooting was first uploaded to a file-sharing website in Washington. After a link was shared by the person who uploaded it, both the link and the video circulated for days on leading platforms such as Twitter and other social networking sites.
The report calls on lawmakers to make it easier to sue tech firms that allow violence to be livestreamed on their social media platforms. It finds livestreaming requires regulation as it has become “a tool for mass shooters”.
Lack of accountability and “reasonable” measures to limit livestreaming on social media sites are also highlighted in the report.
“We can no longer rely entirely on the industry to regulate itself through voluntary commitments,” said James. “The cost is too high, and we must take every step we can to prevent violence predicated on hatred and bigotry, fueled by the unlimited consumption of vitriolic racist content online.”