Analysis | He live-streamed a grocery store shooting. Videos still linger online. (2024)

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He live-streamed a grocery store shooting. Videos still linger online.

In May, a 20-year-old man walked into a grocery store in Fort Wayne, Ind., with a handgun and began live-streaming on Facebook from inside a bathroom. “I’m going to shoot 11 people,” he said, looking into his phone’s camera, before telling people to “record” the event.

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The accused shooter, Richard Klaff, then walked around the store hurling racial slurs and asking viewers who he should shoot, before unleashing a burst of shots at a Black woman and other shoppers walking by. No one was injured; Klaff was arrested for attempted murder.

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More than a month later, dozens of videos of the attempted mass shooting remain on social media, racking up millions of views, according to a new report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and a review by the Tech Brief.

Their spread, researchers said, highlight enforcement gaps in how tech companies handle mass-violence events that lack a clear link to terrorism or an ideology.

ISD, a London-based think tank that researches online extremism, found over 40 videos of the shooting on X and Facebook in the two days after the attack, generating nearly 9 million views and plays. The vast majority of the views took place on Elon Musk’s X, with under 30,000 plays registered on Facebook videos during that timespan.

On Tuesday, a search by the Tech Brief for the shooter’s name on X quickly and prominently surfaced more than two dozen videos of the shooting, several with millions of views. In both reviews, the videos that gained by far the most traction were shared by verified users on X. On Meta, at least a dozen videos were still up early Tuesday, though with far lower play counts.

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Researchers said they did not find a significant number of raw videos of the shooting on other platforms such as TikTok, Google’s YouTube or Meta’s Instagram. Many of the videos on X, however, appeared to originate on Telegram, researchers said.

According to ISD’s report, one likely reason the videos may not have been taken down as efficiently across platforms is because there was no “explicit terrorist or violent extremist group linkage to the attacker.”

Meta, formerly named Facebook, and X, formerly named Twitter, were both founding members of the Global internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, or GIFCT, an NGO dedicated to preventing “terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms,” according to its website.

The group, created in response to the live-streamed Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019, helps tech companies to share intelligence when terrorist incidents are linked to their platforms. Those systems may not have been triggered because of the nature of the Indiana attack, however.

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While Klaff used racial slurs and told viewers the day of the shooting he was “going out with a bang” before unloading his gun on multiple Black shoppers, ISD wrote that his “social media footprint did not seem to indicate that he was linked to any extremist groups.”

The videos did appear to violate the companies’ policies, though, raising questions about their individual enforcement as well, researchers said.

X’s rules prohibit any accounts sharing “perpetrator-generated media” related to acts of terrorism, violent extremism or mass violence, as well as those “glorifying” the perpetrator. X did not respond to a request for comment. The GIFCT did not respond to a request for comment.

Meta spokeswoman Erica Sackin said that the original live stream was removed less than an hour and a half after posting, and that the event and perpetrator have since been designated under the company’s policies for dangerous organizations and individuals.

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A Facebook page researchers linked to the suspected shooter was still active as of early Tuesday, but it was taken down after the Tech Brief contacted Meta for comment. The company confirmed Wednesday it had also removed at least a dozen videos identified in the ISD report.

While the shooting did not cause any fatalities, researchers said it reflected a worrying trend of shooters using social media to treat the attacks as a game.

ISD researcher Moustafa Ayad noted that during the live stream, the shooter asked viewers for input on whom he should fire at, at one point responding that he wouldn’t kill an older man.

“While there is no ideological link here, that was an aspect of it that was relatively novel and shocking,” Ayad said. The “gamification” of these attacks, he said, is “troubling to say the least.”

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Analysis | He live-streamed a grocery store shooting. Videos still linger online. (2024)
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