After New York shooting video spreads, social platforms face questions

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NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - In March 2019, before a gunman murdered 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, he went live on Facebook to broadcast his attack.

In October of that year, a man in Germany broadcast his own mass shooting live on Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestreaming site popular with gamers.

On Saturday (May 14), a gunman in Buffalo, New York, mounted a camera to his helmet and livestreamed on Twitch as he killed 10 people and injured three more at a grocery store in what authorities said was a racist attack.

In a manifesto posted online, Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old whom authorities identified as the shooter, wrote that he had been inspired by the Christchurch gunman and others.

Twitch said it reacted swiftly to take down the video of the Buffalo shooting, removing the stream within two minutes of the start of the violence. But two minutes was enough time for the video to be shared elsewhere.

By Sunday, recordings of the video had circulated widely on other social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. An excerpt from the original video on a site called Streamable was viewed more than 3 million times before it was removed.

Mass shootings - and live broadcasts - raise questions about the role and responsibility of social media sites in allowing violent and hateful content to proliferate.

Many of the gunmen in the shootings have written that they developed their racist and antisemitic beliefs trawling online forums like Reddit and 4chan, and were spurred on by watching other shooters stream their attacks live.

"It's a sad fact of the world that these kind of attacks are going to keep on happening, and the way that it works now is there's a social media aspect as well," said Ms Evelyn Douek, a senior research fellow at Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute who studies content moderation. "It's totally inevitable and foreseeable these days. It's just a matter of when."

Questions about the responsibilities of social media sites are part of a broader debate over how aggressively platforms should moderate their content. That discussion has been escalated since Mr Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, recently agreed to purchase Twitter and has said he wants to make unfettered speech on the site a primary objective.

Social media and content moderation experts said Twitch's quick response was the best that could reasonably be expected. B...

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