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Social Media Platforms and the Buffalo Shooting

On May 14, a shooter attacked a supermarket in a historically Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, killing ten people and wounding three. The streaming platform Twitch quickly disabled the livestream the shooter had published of the attack—but video of the violence, and copies of the white supremacist manifesto released by the attacker online, continue to circulate on the internet. 

How should we evaluate the response of social media platforms to the tragedy in Buffalo? This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Brian Fishman, who formerly worked at Facebook, now Meta, as the policy director for counterterrorism and dangerous organizations. Brian helped lead Facebook’s response to the 2019 Christchurch shooting, another act of far-right violence livestreamed online. He walked us through how platforms respond to crises like these, why it’s so difficult to remove material like the Buffalo video and manifesto from the internet, and what it would look like for platforms to do better.

More Episodes

6/23/2022

Rebroadcast: The Most Intense Online Disinformation Event in American History

If you’ve been watching the hearings convened by the House select committee on Jan. 6, you’ve seen a great deal about how the Trump campaign generated and spread falsehoods about supposed election fraud in 2020. As the committee has argued, those falsehoods were crucial in generating the political energy that culminated in the explosion of the January 6 insurrection.What shape did those lies take, and how did social media platforms attempt to deal with them at the time? Today, we’re bringing you an episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on the online information ecosystem. In fact, we’re rebroadcasting an episode we recorded in November 2020 about disinformation and the 2020 election. In late November 2020, after Joe Biden cemented his victory as the next president but while the Trump campaign was still pushing its claims of election fraud online and in court, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory. Their conversation then was a great overview of the state of election security and the difficulty of countering false claims around the integrity of the vote. It’s worth a listen today as the Jan. 6 committee reminds us what the political and media environment was like in the aftermath of the election and how the Trump campaign committed to election lies that still echo all too loudly. And though it’s a year and a half later, the problems we’re discussing here certainly haven’t gone away.