New York Attorney General Letitia James and Gov. Kathy Hochul called for a host of changes to social media platforms in a report on May’s Buffalo mass shooting, in which a White gunman allegedly opened fire at a supermarket and murdered 10 Black people.
Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect, is accused of keeping a “private journal” of his plans on the platform Discord, then using the livestreaming platform Twitch to broadcast the attack online.
Before the attack, Gendron was “radicalized” by “anonymous, virtually unmoderated websites and platforms,” such as 4chan, where he was exposed to “virulent racist and antisemitic content,” according to the 49-page report released on Tuesday.
“In the absence of changes to the law, platforms like 4chan will not take meaningful action to prevent the proliferation of this kind of content on its site,” James wrote.
James recommends that New York and other states criminalize the creation of video or images of a homicide by the perpetrator, and implement civil penalties for social media users who spread that content.
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The report also calls for Congress to update Section 230, which protects social media companies from being held liable for content published on their platforms.
“We recommend an approach that requires an online platform that wishes to retain Section 230(c)(1)’s protections to take reasonable steps to prevent unlawful violent criminal content from appearing on the platform,” James wrote.
Twitch and Discord did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. A spokesperson for 4chan could not be reached.
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Gendron has pleaded not guilty to 25 state charges, including murder, attempted murder, and domestic terrorism.
The 18-year-old wrote in a diary that his “motivation for the attack was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar racially-motivated attacks,” according to a criminal complaint.
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Gendron is also facing federal hate crime and firearms charges. Attorney General Merrick Garland will decide at a later date whether to seek the death penalty in the case.