Social platforms have learned to remove violent videos of extremist shootings faster in recent years. It’s just not clear that they are moving fast enough.
Police said when a white gunman killed 10 people and injured three others – most of them black – in a shooting of “a racially motivated violent extremist” in Buffalo on Saturday, he aired the attack live on the Twitch gaming platform, which is owned by Amazon. He didn’t stay there long; a Twitch spokesperson said they deleted the video in less than two minutes.
That’s considerably faster than the 17 minutes it took Facebook to take down a similar video posted by a self-proclaimed white supremacist who killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in 2019. But versions of the Buffalo shooting video have come up short. yet quickly spread to other platforms, and they haven’t always gone away quickly.
In April, Twitter enacted a new “Perpetrators of Violent Attacks” policy to remove accounts maintained by “individual perpetrators of terrorist, violent extremist, or mass violent attacks,” as well as tweets and other content produced by perpetrators of such attacks. On Sunday, however, snippets of the video were still circulating on the platform.
A clip purporting to show a first-person view of the gunman moving through a supermarket shooting people was posted to Twitter at 8:12 a.m. PT and was still viewable more than four hours later.
Twitter said Sunday it is working to remove material related to the shooting that violates its rules. But the company added that when people share media to condemn or provide context, sharing videos and other material from the shooter may not be a violation of the rules. In these cases, Twitter said it covers the images or videos with a cover of “sensitive material” that users must click on to see them.
But later on Sunday, Twitter changed course on how it handled material related to the shooting. In a later emailed statement, the company said it was “removing videos and media related to the incident” and “may remove” tweets spreading the shooter’s writings. Earlier, the company’s statement said it “may” remove material produced by the authors.
“We believe that hateful and discriminatory views conveyed in author-produced content are harmful to society and that their dissemination should be limited to prevent the authors from spreading their message,” Twitter said in a statement.
In a press conference after the attack, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said social media companies needed to be more vigilant in monitoring what was happening on their platforms and found it inexcusable that the stream in direct was not removed “in a second”.
“The CEOs of these companies need to be held accountable and make sure they’re taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information,” Hochul said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “How these depraved ideas are fermenting on social media – it’s spreading like a virus now.”
Hochul said she held the companies responsible for “fomenting” racist views. “People share these ideas. They share videos of other attacks. And they are all impersonators. They all want to be the next great white hope that’s going to inspire the next attack,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that investigators are also looking at a rant the shooter posted online, which purports to describe the attacker’s racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic beliefs, including the desire to drive all non-Europeans out of the United States
Police say the suspected shooter, identified as Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York, shot dead 11 black and two white victims at a Buffalo supermarket, echoing a deadly attack at a German synagogue that was also broadcast on Twitch in October 2019.
Twitch is popular among gamers and has played a key role in spreading esports. A company spokesperson said the company had a “zero tolerance policy” against violence. So far, the company hasn’t revealed any details about the user page or the live stream, including how many people were watching it. The spokesperson said the company took the account offline and was monitoring anyone else who might repost the video.
In Europe, a senior European Union official responsible for overseeing the 27-nation bloc’s digital affairs said on Sunday that live streaming on Twitch showed the need for administrators to continue working with online platforms so that any future broadcast of murders can be quickly stopped.
But Margrethe Vestager, who is executive vice-president of the European Commission, also said it would be a tall order to eradicate such emissions completely.
“It’s really hard to make sure it’s completely airtight, to make sure it’s never going to happen and people are shut down the second they start something like this. Because there’s lots of live streams which of course are 100% legit,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“The platforms have done a lot to get to the root of this. They are not there yet,” she added. “But they keep working and we will keep working.”
Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, said on Sunday that he quickly called the shooting a “terrorist attack” on Saturday, which triggered an internal process that identifies the suspect’s account, as well as copies of his writings. and any copy or link to video of his attack.
The company said it removed the video of the shoot from the platform and added that instances where it was still being shared were via links to streaming sites. These links, in turn, are blocked and “blocked” by the company, which means that they can no longer be downloaded.
But new links created when people download copies to outside sites should be blocked individually in a cat-and-mouse game – unless the company chooses to block an entire streaming site from its platform. form, which is unlikely.
Jared Holt, resident researcher at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said moderating live content continues to be a big challenge for businesses. He noted that Twitch’s response time was good and that the company was smart to monitor its platform for potential uploads.
“It would behoove other video hosting platforms to also be aware of this content to the extent that it may have been recorded – may also be reposted on their own products,” Holt said.
AP technology reporter Barbara Ortutay contributed to this story from Oakland, Calif.; AP reporter John Leicester contributed from Paris.