Brooklyn Boro

Gov. and AG call for reforms to Social Media following mass shootings

October 19, 2022 Rob Abruzzese
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Following a report released by their offices, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James have called for reforms to social media platforms, which they claim helps to radicalize shooters as well as publicize their violent attacks.

Specifically, the Governor and Attorney General would like to see both federal and state reforms made that would criminalize graphic images or videos shared by a perpetrator of a homicide, and are recommending changes to Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act to increase accountability of online platforms that host violent content.

They’re particularly concerned with the use of livestreams to publicize violence and encourage copycat attacks.

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“The tragic shooting in Buffalo exposed the real dangers of unmoderated online platforms that have become breeding grounds for white supremacy,” said Attorney General James. “Today I met with the victims’ families to share the findings of this report. This report is further proof that online radicalization and extremism is a serious threat to our communities, especially communities of color.

“We saw this happen in Christchurch, Charlottesville, El Paso, and Buffalo, and we cannot wait for another tragedy before we take action,” James continued. “Online platforms should be held accountable for allowing hateful and dangerous content to spread on their platforms. Extremist content is flourishing online, and we must all work together to confront this crisis and protect our children and communities.”

Investigators subpoenaed documents from online platforms such as Facebook, 4chan, 8kun, Reddit, Discord, Twitch, and YouTube, as well as Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Rumble to look at how the platforms have been used to distribute and promote racist attacks. The report specifically includes details of how platforms were used to livestream shootings with the goal of inciting additional attacks. It claims that online platforms have played an “undeniable role” in promoting acts of violence.

One aspect of the report examined the inconsistent way various platforms respond to problematic content, including a lack of disclosure, and accountability. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the report says, is responsible for much of the lack of accountability.

The report recommended the following: creating liability for creation and distribution of videos of homicides, adding restrictions for live streaming, reforming Section 230 to require online platforms to take reasonable steps to prevent unlawful criminal content from appearing on their platform, and to increase transparency and strengthen online moderation of social media platforms.

“For too long, hate and division have been spreading rampant on online platforms — and as we saw in my hometown of Buffalo, the consequences are devastating,” said Governor Hochul. “In the wake of the horrific white supremacist shooting this year, I issued a referral asking the Office of the Attorney General to study the role online platforms played in this massacre. This report offers a chilling account of factors that contributed to this incident and, importantly, a road map toward greater accountability.”

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