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New York Attorney General to investigate social media platforms after Buffalo shooting

<i>Matt Rourke/AP</i><br/>New York Attorney General Letitia James
Matt Rourke/AP
New York Attorney General Letitia James

By Brian Fung, CNN Business

New York Attorney General Letitia James is launching an investigation into the social media platforms allegedly used by the Buffalo shooting suspect.

The probe, disclosed Wednesday by James’ office, focuses on the livestreaming platform Twitch, the messaging service Discord and the websites 4chan and 8chan (now known as 8kun). Other unnamed companies could also be drawn into the investigation, James said.

The investigation is expected to focus on companies that “the Buffalo shooter used to plan, promote, and stream his terror attack,” James announced in a tweet.

News of the investigation further heightens scrutiny surrounding tech platforms and their handling of the Buffalo shooting suspect’s racist, violent online content, including a 180-page document that has been attributed to the suspect.

Prior to opening fire at a supermarket in a predominantly Black area in Buffalo, the suspect appears to have hinted at his plans on 4chan and to have created a private chat room on Discord. The suspect also attempted to livestream the shooting on Twitch, which was removed in less than two minutes but continued to spread on other large platforms.

Discord told CNN in a statement it plans to cooperate with the probe. Amazon-owned Twitch and 4chan and 8chan didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Results of the inquiry will be sent to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who directed James to begin the investigation, Hochul said Wednesday.

“These social media platforms have to take responsibility,” Hochul said. “They must be more vigilant in monitoring the content and they must be held accountable for favoring engagement over public safety.”

In a letter to James dated Wednesday, Hochul called for the investigation to determine “whether specific companies have civil or criminal liability for their role in promoting, facilitating, or providing a platform to plan and promote violence.”

Multiple experts on the First Amendment and platform liability have said it would not have been illegal for the Buffalo shooting suspect to livestream his video online.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, along with the First Amendment, also shield social media and tech platforms from liability for most user-generated content, though a Texas state law currently before the Supreme Court purports to restrict how platforms can moderate content.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN – Social Media/Technology

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