Twitch released an initial statement immediately following the events of Saturday, May 14, when 18-year-old Payton Gendron drove to Buffalo, NY, and streamed himself shooting 13 people on Twitch, killing 10. In the statement, Twitch reported they suspended Gendron’s stream within two minutes after the shooting began and that they were observing uploads to make sure no other accounts attempted to rebroadcast the stream.
On Monday, May 16, Twitch released a further statement, reiterating their claim they took the stream down within two minutes, while adding the company was working with the FBI and Homeland Security to aid in the investigation of the shooting.
“We take our responsibility to protect our community extremely seriously, and trust and safety is a major area of investment,” Twitch said in the statement, after also including that they were also working with other tech companies in the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to prevent the spread of the footage online. “As we’ve shared in the past, live content moderation presents unique challenges, and we are continuously evaluating our policies, processes, and products to keep our community safe. We’ll be examining this incident carefully and sharing those learnings with our peers in the industry to support a safer internet overall.”
This isn’t the first time a platform has had to locate and shut down a live stream of a mass shooting. When more than 50 people were killed in the 2019 shooting of a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, the massacre was live-streamed on Facebook. That stream was live for more than 15 minutes before Facebook suspended the account. Gendron allegedly plagiarized portions of his manifesto, which he posted online, from the manifesto posted by Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch shooter.
According to Gendron’s manifesto, he staged the attack because he believed in the racist Great Replacement Theory, which maintains forces in the world are seeking to replace white people. He drove to Buffalo to target black people and hand-written slurs were visible on the guns he used to commit the act of domestic terrorism.
Twitch concluded its statement by noting “Bigotry and hate don’t happen in a vacuum. They’re enabled by a permissive culture when we don’t create spaces where people feel empowered to speak up.” They also thanked users for reporting hateful and harmful content they can remove in real-time.
The shooting and Twitch’s statement comes on the heels of “hate raids” which have plagued the platform in 2021 and early 2022. The raids overload the chats of streamers of color, as well as those in the LGBTQ communities, and spammed their chats with hateful and threatening messages. Some raids were linked with white supremacist groups. The hate raids led to September 2021’s “A Day Off Twitch,” in which many streamers on the platform didn’t stream for a day in protest of a perceived lack of response to the raids from Twitch.
The hate raids eventually subsided, only to return in March.