YouTube videos that formed the Buffalo shooter remained online five days after the tragedy
The YouTube videos the Buffalo shooter watched to illegally modify his rifle were still available on the site five days after the shooting that killed 10 black people in New York City.
Some of the videos appear to violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines, which prohibit content showing how to install gun accessories.
In a letter to YouTube, advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund called on the video platform to enforce its policies.
“Based on our review of the shooter’s writings during the mass shooting in Buffalo, it appears that he honed his knowledge of firearms and firearm modifications on YouTube. Just days before his attack, posts attributed to the shooter on Discord read, “I just watched youtube [sic] and shit the last few days. This is the closest I will ever be to being ready”.
“Technology platforms, such as YouTube, have a responsibility to users and the general public to ensure that posts do not incite violence or promote extremist content. In fact, YouTube’s own guidelines the YouTube community are talking about it, explicitly limiting posts that sell guns or provide instructions on how to make or modify guns.
“Yet, as noted below, the shooter’s own writings provide links to several videos on YouTube – still available to this day – demonstrating that he used your rig to learn how to build and modify firearms. , then later sought to instruct future mass shooters with the same material.
The videos cited by the shooter feature titles such as “How to Make Your AR-15 NY and CA Compliant”, “How to Remove a California Bullet Button and Install a Magazine Version”, and “The AR-15 Rifle – Top Assembly and lower + Prop Tips.” There are dozens of videos that the shooter references in his writings, the letter states.
“We’ll never know the full extent of what the shooter learned about gun modification on YouTube, but in his own words, ‘daily reminder that I’m not a mechanic or a gunsmith, so bear with me. ‘ These videos showing how to modify weapons allow untrained people to quickly develop the expertise necessary to be able to modify weapons in dangerous ways,” he continues.
YouTube did not respond to a request for comment by post time.
The video giant is having difficulty moderating its platform due to the volume of content on it. While filming Christchurch in New Zealand in 2019, the YouTube team had to work through the night trying to identify and remove tens of thousands of videos – many repackaged or recut versions of the original footage that showed the horrible murders.
As soon as the group shot one down, another popped up, as quickly as one per second within hours of the shoot, according to YouTube product manager Neal Mohan.
YouTube had to take unprecedented steps to fix the problem, including temporarily disabling several search functions and cutting out human review features to speed up video removal.
However, YouTube can also be used to radicalize shooters. An 800-page report on the 2019 shooting argued that “YouTube was an important source of information and inspiration” for the shooter, who was “not a frequent commentator on far-right sites”, according to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, speaking on the report.
“We have made significant progress in our work to combat hate speech on YouTube since the tragic attack in Christchurch,” a YouTube spokesperson said in an email at the time. “In 2019, we strengthened our hate speech policy, resulting in the removal of channels mentioned in the report and a five-fold increase in the number of hate videos removed from YouTube.”