The Buffalo shooting highlights disturbing connection between white-nationalist extremism and social media

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The Buffalo shooting highlights disturbing connection between white-nationalist extremism and social media
Police officers secure the scene after a shooting at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022.Reuters/Jeffrey T. Barnes
  • An 18-year-old man is in custody after killing 10 people in a Buffalo, NY., supermarket on Saturday.
  • The shooting was livestreamed on Amazon's video-streaming service, Twitch, and planned on Discord.
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On Saturday, as an 18-year-old white gunman opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY — in what authorities are calling a racially-motivated attack targeting Black people — viewers on Amazon-owned Twitch were able to watch it live.

Before the shooting, in which 10 people were killed, the suspect is said to have discussed intimate details about his plan in a private server on the popular chat service Discord.

And even earlier, according to a 180-page manifesto seen by Insider and purportedly written by the shooter, the anonymous chat forum 4chan helped radicalize him.

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"There I learned through infographics, shitposts, and memes that the White race is dying out, that blacks are disproportionately killing Whites, that the average black takes $700,000 from tax-payers in their lifetime, and that the Jews and the elite were behind this," he wrote, much of which is a reference to the racist "Great Replacement" theory.

The horrific event over the weekend in Buffalo follows an eerily similar pattern to other shootings in recent history sparked by racial or religious hatred: White-nationalist radicalization fueled largely by social media, followed by a violent act committed before a live audience.

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The Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting in May 2019, where over 50 Muslim worshippers were killed, was broadcast live on Facebook. The shooter, a white male, is said to have posted a 74-page manifesto ahead of the attack which heavily referenced the same racist theory, and even shared the same title.

In October 2019, a white German gunman attempted to enter a synagogue on Yom Kippur. When he was unable to breach the front door, he killed two bystanders instead — all of which he streamed to Twitch, where over 2,000 people saw it before the service removed the archived stream.

On the stream, the gunman echoed the same talking points from the same racist "Great Replacement" theory. "The root of all these problems is the Jew," he said.

Despite attempts to moderate hate speech and violent livestreams, social-media and streaming platform companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Discord are seemingly unable to prevent hate speech and violence from appearing in the first place.

To wit: It's been nearly three years since the shooting in Germany, yet Saturday's shooting in Buffalo, NY. was livestreamed to the same Amazon-owned video streaming service which had largely the same response it did nearly three years ago.

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"Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents," a company representative told Insider on Saturday. "The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content."

The livestream was said to have been taken down within two minutes of the broadcast's start.

Discord, similarly, told the New York Times it was working with law enforcement to help investigate the suspect's posts. "We will do everything we can to assist law enforcement in the investigation," the statement said.

Representatives for Twitch and Discord didn't respond to requests for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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