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YouTube, Reddit sued for allegedly enabling mass shooting in Buffalo


Google, YouTube and their parent Alphabet are being sued along with Reddit in a pair of lawsuits for allegedly promoting “extreme and harmful” content that enabled a gunman to kill 10 black people in a hate-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, last year.

“Through the use of YouTube, Reddit and other sites, the shooter gained the mindset, knowledge and motivation he needed to commit his racist attack,” said one of the suits filed in New York State Supreme Court in Erie County on Tuesday that was brought on behalf of Wayne Jones, the son of victim Celestine Chaney.

Celestine, who was killed while shopping for strawberry shortcake ingredients with her older sister, was one of 10 victims who were shot dead by then-18-year-old gunman Payton Gendron on May 14, 2022.

On the day of the massacre, the avowed white supremacist — who was heavily armed and wearing tactical gear — entered Tops Friendly Market and allegedly started firing at black shoppers and employees, authorities said, motivated by his racist beliefs in a conspiracy theory called “the Great Replacement.”

Every victim who Gendron killed was black. Three were injured, of which two were white.


YouTube, Reddit and Google are among the social media sites being sued for allegedly promoting “extreme and harmful” content that enabled Payton Gendron to kill 10 black people in a hate-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, last year.
AP

One of the lawsuits was filed on behalf of Wayne Jones (left), the son of victim Celestine Chaney, who was killed while shopping for strawberry shortcake ingredients with her older sister (right).
One of the lawsuits was filed on behalf of Wayne Jones (left), the son of victim Celestine Chaney, who was killed while shopping for strawberry shortcake ingredients with her older sister (right).
AP

Another lawsuit — which was filed in State Supreme Court in Erie County on behalf of victims’ families and 16 Tops staffers working at the supermarket on the day of the shooting — allege that Gendron wouldn’t have become a believer of “the Great Replacement” if it weren’t for social media sites like YouTube, Reddit and Google.

The court papers, which were obtained by The Post, say that these platforms’ “unsupervised algorithms [that] systematically promote angry, violent and extremist content because that content has been shown to maximize user consumption of and engagement with content.”

Because of Gendron’s “near-constant use of social media,” he was fed “an unending supply [of] extreme and harmful content” that made him “a believer in the racist conspiracy theory called ‘the Great Replacement.’”

Ideologies promoted by the conspiracy theory were apparent in Gendron’s chilling writings, including a 180-page manifesto that he’d allegedly posted online prior to the attack.

The recent court filings — which were filed by Everytown Law on behalf of the victims — pointed to one twisted note that read: “Humanity will cease to develop if the white race is eliminated. …I will carry out an attack on the replacers.”

According to “Great Replacement” believers, “replacers” are non-white people who migrate to white countries “in order to usher in a ‘white genocide’ that will destroy European race and culture,” the suits say.


The court papers claim that a Reddit thread called “r/Tactical Gear” helped Gendron learn how to operate the tactical gear he bought at RMA Armament.
REUTERS

José Castañeda, a spokesperson for YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, told The Post: “We have the deepest sympathies for the victims and families of the horrific attack at Tops grocery store in Buffalo last year. Through the years, YouTube has invested in technology, teams and policies to identify and remove extremist content. We regularly work with law enforcement, other platforms and civil society to share intelligence and best practices.”

Representatives for Reddit did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

When The Post reached out to Everytown Law — the  litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund — for comment, the firm pointed to a press release issued Wednesday on the court filings, where Everytown Executive Director Eric Tirschwell claimed social media companied “addicted and radicalized the shooter and helped him learn how to carry out his racist massacre.”

Both complaints also mention gun shop RMA Armament, where the teen bought his body armor from, gun dealer Vintage Firearms and the gunman’s parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, as defendants.


Gendron took to YouTube to teach himself how to operate the AR-15 gun he purchased at Vintage Firearms, the court papers claim.
Gendron took to YouTube to teach himself how to operate the AR-15 gun he purchased at Vintage Firearms, the court papers claim.
Silex

The court papers claim that a Reddit thread called “r/Tactical Gear” helped Gendron learn how to operate the tactical gear he bought at RMA Armament, while he took to YouTube for tutorials on how to operate the AR-15 gun he purchased at Vintage Firearms.

The subreddit that allegedly enabled Gendron to execute the mass shooting is still active on the platform, with posts from as recent as Thursday asking for tips on which shooting gloves to buy.

The Post has reached out to RMA Armament and Vintage Firearms for comment.

Gendron’s parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, are also defendants on both lawsuits for “failing to take any meaningful action” to prevent the shooting, such as monitoring their teen son’s gun possessions or the “unhealthy amount of time” he was spending on social media.

“The shooter’s parents could and should have prevented this tragedy,” the court documents say.


Gendron, now 19, pleaded guilty to charges that included murder and domestic terrorism and was sentenced to life in prison. He could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of federal hate crime charges.
Gendron, now 19, pleaded guilty to charges that included murder and domestic terrorism and was sentenced to life in prison. He could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of federal hate crime charges.
Silex

Gendron's parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, are also defendants on both lawsuits for "failing to take any meaningful action" to prevent the shooting.
Gendron’s parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, are also defendants on both lawsuits for “failing to take any meaningful action” to prevent the shooting.
Facebook

Gendron, now 19, pleaded guilty to charges that included murder and domestic terrorism last November and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in February.

He’s still facing federal hate crime charges that, if found guilty, could allow US Justice Department officials to consider the death penalty.

The plaintiffs in the complementary lawsuits are requesting economic and non-economic damages, which includes compensation for changes in victims’ lives that are not financial, such as the “acute fear, severe distress and the associated physiological effects of being traumatized” listed in the suits.

If YouTube, Reddit, Google and the other defendants were found guilty, the sum of the damages they would have to pay would be determined at a trial.



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