Buffalo Mass Shooting Livestream Reached Millions Even After Twitch Removed Footage

A Twitch livestream of the Buffalo, New York, mass shooting in a supermarket Saturday was removed by the platform within minutes — but the video was still able to spread throughout the internet.

In a statement to CNN, Twitch, an Amazon-owned company popular for gaming livestreams, said it identified and removed the stream in less than two minutes.

“Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents,” the streaming giant said in a statement to The New York Times. The company also confirmed the account that streamed the footage was suspended and it would monitor for any accounts that shared it.

On Saturday before the shooting occurred, the gunman, later identified as Payton Gendron, invited others to an online space on the chat service Discord where he posted a link to the Twitch stream and a racist manifesto and wrote, “HAPPENING: THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” according to The Washington Post.

The shooting, in a Tops grocery store located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, left 10 people dead and another three injured. The attack was streamed on the account “jimboboiii” and unfolded online in real time to 22 other users, according to the Post.

At least one viewer who’d watched the livestream saved a copy on their computer and shared it, opening the door for it be downloaded and reshared to platforms including YouTube and Facebook as well as sites devoted to violent and uncensored videos and message boards.

YouTube said its “Trust and Safety teams” have removed hundreds of videos related to the attack.

The company issued a statement saying it’s been adhering to community guidelines by “removing content that praises or glorifies the perpetrator of the horrific event in Buffalo, including removing reuploads of the suspect’s manifesto.”

Authorities have described the incident as “racially motivated” based on the manifesto posted by Gendron that outlined specific plans to attack Black people and repeatedly cited “replacement theory,” a far-right conspiracy that white people are systematically being replaced with immigrants and people of color.

Facebook said in a statement issued to HuffPost that on the day of the shooting, it “quickly designated the event as a violating terrorist attack.” The company said that “any copies of or links to video, manifesto, or other content that praises, supports, or represents [the Buffalo incident] violates our policies and will be removed.”

Additionally, the platform said it has permanently blocked links to the video of the incident, as well as the suspect’s manifesto, that are hosted on other platforms.

Facebook said it’s working closely with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to respond to the incident, which will allow the company to share hashes — a kind of digital fingerprint — of the video and manifesto with industry partners to prevent its further spread.

On Sunday morning, however, journalist Eoin Higgins pointed out that a “graphic” video of the shooting could still be viewed on Facebook a full day after incident.

A video that was uploaded to Streamable accumulated over 3 million views and could still be viewed an entire day after the shooting took place, according to a screenshot from the Internet Archive obtained by video game news site Kotaku.

Even when the video was removed for violating Streamable’s terms of service, it continued circulating around Facebook for up to nine hours, The New York Times reported. Axios reported it was able to access clips of the shooting on Facebook as late as 11:30 p.m. ET Monday.

Similarly in 2019, after a gunman livestreamed his attack on mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch on Facebook, the social media platform said it removed 1.5 million videos of the attack in the following 24 hours.

Gendron briefly appeared in court Thursday after a grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder charge. He is due back in court on June 9.

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