An 18-year-old white man, armed with an assault weapon on which was written an anti-Black slur, is accused of entering a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, over the weekend and killing 10 people. Three others were wounded and, altogether, 11 of those shot were Black.
The shooter, identified as Payton Gendron, livestreamed the attack over the platform Twitch, making it one of several mass killings in recent years to have been broadcast online in real-time. In messages sent over 4chan and the messaging platform Discord prior to the attack, Gendron admitted that, in fact, the opportunity to livestream the act gave him “motivation” to carry it out, according to The New York Times. “Livestreaming this attack gives me some motivation in the way that I know that some people will be cheering for me,” the shooter said, according to multiple sources. Twitch removed the video within minutes, but not before it was reposted elsewhere, garnering millions of views and effectively memorializing the attack online for years to come. Photos and clips of Gendron’s stream resurfaced on various social media platforms hours after the shooting.
As it stands, social media and livestream platforms operate under a shared content moderation framework—namely that they are not responsible for user content or behavior, says John Wihbey, associate professor of media innovation and technology at Northeastern.