Facebook, Twitter Battling Buffalo Shooting Video 48 Hours On

The gruesome video filmed by a gunman during a mass shooting at a supermarket that left 10 people dead could still be found on social media two days after the attack.

The shooter's footage was still being shared on Twitter on Monday, 48 hours after he filmed the violent deaths of his victims at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday. Facebook's moderators have also been battling to remove links to the violent footage on their platform.

Police described the mass shooting as "racially motivated violent extremism," after 11 of the 13 victims were revealed to be Black. Officers arrested 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, outside the store on suspicion of murder.

Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for not making sure that the footage hasn't been fully removed from their sites. Newsweek was easily able to find and view the footage via the two sites; it has reported the posts to moderators.

A Meta spokesperson for Facebook told Newsweek: "We have teams working around the clock across Meta to identify, remove, and block violating content related to the shooting."

Newsweek has also reached out to Twitter. On Sunday, a Twitter spokesperson told the Associated Press that the site was working to remove material that violated its policies, but added when footage is shared in order to "condemn it or provide context" then that may not break the rules. In such cases, Twitter covers the images with a "sensitive material" warning that users must acknowledge in order to view the material.

Controversial Policy

The policy has sparked concern that all users need to do in order to evade their posts being removed is say that they disagree with the shooter's actions. The video will still be available to watch, albeit with a "sensitive material" sticker. Indeed, the videos shared on Twitter that were seen by Newsweek were covered by such a warning. But simply by clicking that notice, users are free to watch the violent footage.

The stomach-churning video was first uploaded to live-streaming platform Twitch, owned by parent company Amazon, where it was deleted within two minutes, a Twitch spokesperson told Newsweek.

Speaking on Saturday, the spokesperson added: "We are devastated to hear about the shooting that took place this afternoon in Buffalo, New York. Our hearts go out to the community impacted by this tragedy. Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents. The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content."

The footage of the rampage has since spread to other sites, and it has continued to circulate online. In one heartbreaking case, a mother reportedly saw her own daughter being murdered by the shooter after seeing the footage being shared on Facebook. The woman, who lives on Riley Street, told The Buffalo News she had asked her 30-year-old daughter to buy something from Tops on Saturday afternoon. Her daughter never returned, but she later saw a video on Facebook showing her daughter being gunned down as she left the store.

Sharing Message of Hatred

New York Governor Kathy Hochul held a press conference on Saturday evening and condemned social media platforms for sharing the gunman's message of racial hatred.

She did not name any sites, but added: "They can be in a sense an accomplice to a crime like this. Perhaps not legally, but morally. They created the platform to allow this hate to be spewed. The act of live-streaming this. The fact that this could even be hosted on a platform. It's absolutely shocking."

In 2019, the social media giants were roundly criticized after footage of a white supremacist killing 51 people in two of New Zealand's mosques was livestreamed during the attacks in Christchurch. The original footage was up for 17 minutes on Facebook before it was removed.

After that incident, Facebook and Twitter were among social media companies that vowed to do better and signed up to the Christchurch Call to Action "to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online."

In the statement provided by Meta to Newsweek following the Buffalo atrocity at the weekend, the spokesperson said: "On Saturday we quickly designated the event as a violating terrorist attack, which triggered an internal process into action to identify and remove the account of the identified suspect as well as copies of his manifesto and any copy of, or link to, video of his attack. It also means that any copies of, or links to, video, manifesto, or other content that praises, supports, or represents him violates our policies and will be removed ... We have added the video and manifesto to a database of violating content which helps us to detect and automatically remove copies if they're uploaded again.

"We have blackholed — permanently blocked — links to the video of the incident as well as the suspect's manifesto that are hosted on other platforms.

"We are working closely with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to respond to this incident, which allows us to share hashes of the video and manifesto with industry partners to prevent its proliferation.

"This is an adversarial space, and we have seen instances of people trying to circumvent our policies in order to post violating content related to this incident. However our teams are working to catch these instances and block and remove them — and are continuing to add new content to our database as we find it."

Tops supermarket after shooting
Buffalo Police after the shooting at the Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. Getty Images