New York governor demands social media platforms do more to stop terror attack livestreams

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New York governor Kathy Hochul is calling on social media companies to do more to prevent terrorists and mass murderers from broadcasting attacks on their platforms. The call comes in the wake of a mass shooting that took place on May 14 in Buffalo, New York, in which a heavily-armed white supremacist livestreamed the murders of ten people and wounded three more at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood

According to a New York Times report, the shooter planned out aspects of his rampage, with notes like "continue writing manifesto" and "test livestream function before the actual attack," on a private Discord server. The attack itself was livestreamed on Twitch.

Discord told the Times that it is cooperating with law enforcement authorities investigating the shooter's use of Discord, but would not comment further. 

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families, and we will do everything we can to assist law enforcement in the investigation," the company said.

For its part, a Twitch representative said the livestreaming platform "has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents." 

"The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content," Twitch said. 

The service also noted that the shooter's Twitch channel was taken offline less than two minutes after he began his rampage.

This is not the first time a premeditated hate crime has been broadcast on the internet. A 2019 attack on a synagogue in Germany, in which two people were killed, was also broadcast on Twitch, while attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 51 people dead, were livestreamed on Facebook. According to Australia's Online Hate Prevention Institute, the Buffalo shooter wrote in his manifesto that he was inspired by the Christchurch attacker's livestream, which he said introduced him to the "great replacement theory" and other racist conspiracy theories embraced by both shooters.

A sub-two-minute response time strikes me as quite good for on-the-fly moderation of a service with over 80,000 live channels at any given time , but New York Governor Kathy Hochul demands that social media platforms do more to prevent these streams from being shared.

"There's a feeding frenzy on social media platforms where hate festers more hate, that has to stop," Hochul said during a briefing after the shooting. "These outlets must be more vigilant in monitoring social media content. And certainly the fact that this act of barbarism, this execution of innocent human beings, could be live streamed on social media platforms and not taken down within a second, says to me that there is a responsibility out there. 

"We're going to continue to work on this and make sure that those who provide these platforms have a moral and ethical, and I hope to have a legal responsibility to ensure that such hate cannot populate these sites, because this is the result."

Hochul added that her government is also "going to be preparing our state for what could be a Supreme Court decision that allows people to carry concealed weapons."

I've reached out to Twitch and Discord for further comment, and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.