Social Media Sites Face Suit in Buffalo Mass Shooting

Rare filing cites trauma, names retailers and gunman's parents
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 16, 2023 4:38 PM CDT
Social Media Sites Face Suit in Buffalo Mass Shooting
Wayne Jones, left, looks on as his aunt JoAnn Daniels holds a photograph of his mother Celestine Chaney in May 2022. Chaney was killed in the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A group of 16 Tops employees and customers who witnessed the fatal shooting of 10 Black people at a Buffalo grocery store are taking a list of companies to court over the trauma they say they suffered when a white gunman opened fire. YouTube and Reddit are named in the suit, which says Payton Gendron became radicalized by content on those sites and learned information he used to carry out the attack on social media, NBC News reports. Three retailers also are named; the suit, which was filed in New York Supreme Court by a nonprofit, says they sold firearm equipment and body armor that Gendron used in the attack in May 2022.

Such a lawsuit is unusual but not unprecedented. An emotional distress suit was filed in 2017 on behalf of three people who were at the festival in Las Vegas where at least 59 people were shot to death and hundreds of others injured. The families of those killed in the Buffalo mass shooting filed a suit against many of the same defendants in July, including the social media companies. Gendron, who is white, admitted to picking the store after looking into which ZIP codes have the highest percentage of Black residents. He wore body armor and used an assault-style rile to shoot people in the store.

One plaintiff said she still feels uneasy at work in the presence of white people, per Reuters, and another said she has "enormous guilt and anger" because of her feeling that she survived the attack because she is white. Another said she has had panic attacks when unable to spot an exit at stores. Because of the defendants' negligence, the suit says Gendron was able to acquire "the racist motivation, tools and knowledge necessary for him to commit the mass shooting." A YouTube spokesman said Wednesday the platform has invested in spotting and removing extremist content; the other defendants did not immediately comment. Gendron's parents also are named in the suit. (More Buffalo shooting stories.)

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