Judge allows lawsuit accusing YouTube, Facebook and Reddit of radicalizing Buffalo shooter stand

Although the digital platforms said they were not responsible for users' content, the magistrate decided that the allegations had sufficient merit to continue the case.

Several digital platforms will face a lawsuit related to the shooting that claimed the lives of 10 people in 2022 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. Survivors and a family member of one victim allege that the platforms were “instrumental in preparing the shooter to commit his heinous attack."

Erie County Supreme Court Justice Paula Feroleto denied the motion to dismiss the lawsuit against Meta, Reddit, Google, YouTube and other social media companies.

The companies had argued in their motion that, by hosting user-generated content, they cannot be liable under the Communications Decency Act and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, Judge Feroleto found sufficient merit to the allegations for the lawsuit to proceed.

According to the plaintiffs, the shooter used digital platforms to fuel his radical ideals, which influenced his plan to attack the Tops supermarket.

The lawsuit alleges that these platforms not only facilitated the radicalization of the shooter but also provided him with the necessary knowledge of the tools, products, and skills required to perpetrate the mass shooting.

According to the indictment, the companies “profit from the racist, antisemitic, and violent material displayed on their platforms to maximize user engagement.” It also highlights that these platforms are designed to be addictive, which led Payton Gendron to posts that “indoctrinated” him and incited him to commit the attack.

The companies will appeal the decision

Both YouTube and Reddit advanced that they intend to appeal the decision, arguing that they are committed to removing extremist content from their platforms and have implemented policies to prevent the promotion of hate and violence.

A Reddit spokesperson stated that “hate and violence have no place on Reddit” and stressed that the site’s policies prohibit this type of content.

“We are constantly evaluating ways to improve our detection and removal of this content, including through enhanced image-hashing systems, and we will continue to review the communities on our platform to ensure they are upholding our rules,” he said.

Jose Castaneda, a YouTube spokesperson, also expressed his intention to appeal and reiterated the platform’s commitment to working collaboratively with law enforcement and other platforms to address online extremism.

“While we disagree with today’s decision and will be appealing, we will continue to work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices,” he said.