New York Aims to Bring Changes to Social Media Laws

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an investigative report on the role of social media platforms in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York earlier this year.

James is seeking to change social media laws, as she believes social media portals are helpful for people who want to promote violence. 

In May, a New York teenager killed 10 people in a mass shooting while live-streaming the attack on the social media platform, Twitch. Initially, the 18-year-old shooter, Payton Gendron, kept the so-called private journal of his massacre planning on Discord.

New York Seeks to Change Social Media Laws

According to the newly released report of James, the shooter was radicalized by racist and antisemitic websites.

Reportedly, Gendron was inspired by different forums which allow anonymous postings, where he consumed hateful content. The report mentioned different anonymous posting websites, including 4chan and 8kun, where Gendron was exposed to extremist content.

James noted that she wants the government to introduce a new policy for social media, as websites like 4chan will not change their policies that are meant to promote discrimination. 

So, James recommended that New York should criminalize the creation and distribution of visual content which promoted homicides and massacres. She also encouraged other states to pursue social media reforms in order to stop violence.

NY Attorney General Wants to Reform Section 230

Furthermore, James’ report urged Congress to change Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prohibits governments and individuals from prosecuting social media platforms for hate speech.

Currently, social media websites cannot be sued for any type of content on their websites; so these platforms avoid taking down extremist content in many cases.

If any social media platform wants to enjoy the privileges given in Section 230, James wrote, it should obey the rules to prevent criminal content on its portals.

In addition to that, James’ report mentioned the dangerous mass shooting episode in Buffalo was also seen by users on Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms.

James further wrote that social media platforms must not allow live-streaming of violent events so mass shooters do not rely on technology to promote their agenda. She also claimed the government cannot trust social media outlets further based on their voluntary commitments.

So, James continued, the future of social media platforms is only secure if these websites are regulated to stop the distribution of hate-based content.

The criminal complaint against Gendron established the shooter wrote in his diary that he wanted to kill black people so they cannot eliminate white people.

Likewise, the criminal complaint continued, Gendron encouraged other people to commit the same hate crimes against people of color.

Currently, Gendron is facing both federal and state charges. At the federal level, he is accused of hate crimes and firearm violence, while he pleaded not guilty to 25 charges brought by New York state.

This article appeared in TheDailyBeat and has been published here with permission.