Lawsuit Alleges Facebook, Amazon, and Other Tech Giants Responsible for US Supermarket Shooting

Relatives of the victims in a tragic shooting at a US supermarket have filed a lawsuit blaming tech and social media giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google for the radicalization of the shooter. The lawsuit, announced at a news conference by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, spans 171 pages and seeks financial damages as well as operational changes from the companies involved.

The defendants named in the lawsuit include Facebook’s parent company Meta, Instagram, Google, Discord, and Amazon, which owns Twitch, the livestreaming platform used by the shooter to broadcast last year’s attack. The suit also includes RMA Armament, the manufacturer of the gunman’s body armor, and the firearms retailers that sold him the weapons.

The shooting took place in May 2022 at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, resulting in the deaths of ten Black individuals and injuries to three others. The shooter, Payton Gendron, had engaged with racist conspiracy theories online before targeting the predominantly Black neighborhood. Gendron, who was 18 at the time, traveled 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York, to carry out the attack.

Gendron, who has been sentenced to life without parole after pleading guilty to charges including murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate, admitted to being addicted to social media and exposed to a constant stream of racist and white supremacist propaganda through defective social media applications, according to the lawsuit.

Relatives of the victims shared their experiences during the news conference, with one mother describing being “tagged” in a widely circulated video of the rampage. The violence was witnessed in real-time by twenty-two users on Gendron’s Twitch account, simultaneously broadcasted on his Discord account.

The lawsuit also highlighted how, prior to the shooting, Gendron published 700 pages of an online diary outlining his plans and linked to a Google document containing a self-proclaimed “manifesto” explaining his racist motivations.

In response to the lawsuit, a YouTube spokesperson, owned by Google, stated that the company has made investments in technology and policies to identify and remove extremist content. The spokesperson added that YouTube regularly collaborates with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to exchange intelligence and implement best practices.

The families’ legal representation expressed shock at their findings, stating that they thoroughly examined the entire supply chain of gun distribution, including manufacturers of body armor and illegal high-capacity magazines, in addition to social media platforms.

The lawsuit also includes Gendron’s parents, Paul and Pamela Gendron, alleging that they armed their son despite clear warning signs of his dangerousness.

The legal teams for the victims’ families indicated that their lawsuit is similar to another one filed in May and suggested that the two cases may be consolidated.

“We aim to hold accountable all those who contributed to loading that gun,” said attorney Ben Crump. “It is our objective to make sure that everybody that loaded that gun is held to account.”

At the time of reporting, the companies named in the lawsuit had not responded to requests for comment.

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