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Live streaming motivated the Buffalo shooter

Twitch says it managed to shut down the live stream of the weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo within two minutes of the start. However, videos of the shooting were viewed millionfoldin part because it remains easy to re-upload copies of videos to multiple platforms.

Why it matters: Live streaming mass shootings can give attackers peace of mind that their crimes will be broadcast online for many years.

  • In fact, the man arrested in connection with the shooting said that knowing he could broadcast his attack was part of his drive.
  • “Live streaming this attack gives me some motivation knowing some people will be cheering me on,” the gunman said during his racist video rant during the attack, according to the Washington Post and NY Times.

Catch up fast: Authorities are investigating the mass shooting of an 18-year-old white man as a hate crime and a case of “racially motivated violent extremism.”

  • Ten people were killed and three injured in the attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday night. Eleven of the 13 people were black, police said.

Details: The gunman wore a camera during the attack and posted the footage in real time to Twitch, Amazon’s live streaming platform, which often includes live video games.

  • According to the company, the only video the shooter uploaded to Twitch is the live footage of the attack. Twitch confirmed to Axios that the stream was removed less than two minutes after the violence began.

The big picture: Tech platforms said they quickly identified the video as violating their policies and removed it shortly thereafter, but copies of the video continued to circulate online hours after the live stream ended.

  • For example, Axios viewed part of the video posted to Facebook at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday before it was removed a few hours later.

What you say: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul criticized the various social media platforms for both inspiring the shooter and sharing videos of the attack. “It’s spreading like a virus,” Hochul said, according to the New York Times.

  • In a statement, Facebook parent Meta said it described the event as a hurtful terrorist attack on Saturday, which sparked an internal process to remove any copies of or links to videos of the incident, the shooter’s writings about it, or any other content that may have been identified praise, support or represent him.
  • Reddit told Axios in a statement, “In accordance with our policies, we are removing all content sharing the video in question.”
  • Twitch said in a statement that the user who streamed the shooting has been banned indefinitely and that he is “monitoring for accounts rebroadcasting this content.”

Be smart: The Department of Homeland Security has cited a pattern among some mass shooters who view and study online videos of other mass shootings, such as the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

  • The 1999 Columbine High School massacre has been cited as an inspiration by various mass shooters for years, in large part because national television coverage was so widespread.

Between the lines: Tech companies have long struggled to identify and block videos of mass shootings and other gruesome events that are being streamed live or uploaded to their platforms while the violence is taking place.

  • Creepy content that is post-uploaded to platforms for on-demand playback is easier for companies to sort out with the help of artificial intelligence, either at the time of upload or before it is widely noticed – the automated systems can link the videos to databases with pre-tagged match content.
  • Many of these systems were developed or improved in the wake of the 2019 livestreamed mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

What’s next: Once gruesome content has been identified, technology companies often work with third-party groups such as the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to share examples of content via a shared database that helps other companies identify and prevent future uploads of the same material.

go deeper: Memorial to the victims of the Buffalo mass shooting

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