When it comes to mass shootings that involve illegally modified firearms, Payton Gendron is not America’s first gun-related rodeo. That’s why it’s unconscionable that online sites like YouTube have not done more about the existence of how-to videos that give white supremacist shooters in training ready access to everything they need to know before they carry out mass murder.
According to NBC News, Gendron, the suspect in the heinous Buffalo shooting that killed 10 Black people, wrote in what is reported to be his online manifesto that he learned to modify his rifle by watching YouTube videos and he even provided links to the videos in Discord chat logs. And to add to the egregiousness of it all, those videos were still available for anyone to watch and take notes from five days after the shooting.
NBC noted that “Some of the videos appear to violate YouTube’s community guidelines banning videos that show how to install gun accessories like high-capacity magazines,” so why were they ever accessible in the first place? Certainly, an online tech giant like YouTube has the ability to control what content is allowed on its platform. Maybe it’s possible the company administrators might miss a few things that violate its standards, but videos that teach people how to illegally make killing machines more kill-able? Irresponsible isn’t a strong enough word for that.
“Technology platforms, such as YouTube, have a responsibility to users and the public at-large to ensure that posts do not incite violence or promote extremist content,” Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund wrote in a lengthy letter to YouTube on Thursday. The letter was also sent to Attorney General Letitia James, who reportedly received a referral from Gov. Kathy Hochul to “investigate social media platforms that broadcasted the horrific attack in Buffalo and legitimized replacement theory.”
So basically, providing monsters with virtual manuals on how to be more efficient killers isn’t the only way YouTube and other sites are complicit in giving white supremacy the tools it needs to thrive.
As for the gun modification videos, this isn’t even the first time in the last year that government officials have appealed to YouTube to stop allowing them on its platform.
In December, an NBC News investigation found dozens of YouTube videos with step-by-step instructions for how to make untraceable “ghost guns” at home, despite a company policy banning such videos. In February, five Democratic senators sent a letter asking YouTube to better enforce its firearms policies.
“The policies are there, but they’re not enforcing them,” said Justin Wagner, Everytown’s director of investigations. “They’re swimming with videos that show how to modify a gun to make it fire faster and do more damage. These aren’t hard to find — anyone can put terms into the search bar and find them.”
And it’s not just YouTube and Discord, as social media site Twitch allowed Gendron to live-stream his carnage and chat rooms on controversial sites like 4Chan were involved in the planning and carrying out of mass murder in Buffalo, too.
Last year, the FBI identified white supremacists as America’s biggest domestic terror threat. So, how many of these terrorist attacks need to be carried out before YouTube and other online sites get the memo that monsters shouldn’t be able to access content on their platforms that teach them to be more capable monsters?
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