May 20, 2022
Issues: Corporate Accountability, Fighting Bigotry
After Buffalo, Muslim Advocates Asks DOJ to Investigate Facebook, Social Media Companies
At Friday Meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland, Muslim Advocates Asks DOJ to Investigate Social Media Companies’ Failure to Prevent Spread of Buffalo Shooting Footage
Washington, DC — On Friday, Muslim Advocates—and a coalition of civil rights organizations including NAACP, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), National Action Network, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Council of Negro Women, National Urban League, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice—met with Attorney General Merrick Garland to discuss the deadly, white nationalist shooting in Buffalo, NY. At the meeting Muslim Advocates Senior Policy Counsel Sumayyah Waheed directly asked Attorney General Garland to open a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into social media companies’ failure to prevent footage of the shooting from going viral on their platforms. According to the Washington Post, just one link to a copy of the Buffalo footage “received more than 500 comments and 46,000 shares” and Facebook “did not remove it for more than 10 hours.” And according to the New York Times, Facebook posts linking to a copy of the video “generated more than 43,000 interactions.” The Times also reported that “in some search results, Facebook is surfacing the violent video or links to websites hosting the clip next to ads” and also that “Facebook recommended certain search terms about the Buffalo gunman video noting that they were ‘popular now’ on the platform.”
The following is a statement from Muslim Advocates Senior Policy Counsel Sumayyah Waheed:
“At our meeting, we asked Attorney General Garland to open an investigation into Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Twitch and other social media companies for failing to prevent footage of the Buffalo shooting from spreading. This failure allowed white nationalist propaganda to go viral that will inevitably lead to more violence against marginalized communities. As I directly told the attorney general, ‘we can’t just allow them to escape accountability for enabling these videos to go viral. Facebook ran ads on these videos. And there’s just no excuse for them to keep enabling this to happen while our community members are dying.’
After the Christchurch shooter livestreamed his slaughter of 51 Muslims on Facebook, Muslim Advocates went to the company and demanded that they take action to stop the video from spreading and to prevent something like this from happening again. In response, Facebook promised to update their livestreaming rules and touted their algorithmic efforts to detect and stamp out hateful content. Now, after the footage of the Buffalo rampage has gone viral on Facebook, we know that their efforts were a total failure.
The Buffalo shooter said he was directly inspired by the Christchurch shooter. They both deployed the same rhetoric and social media strategy. Facebook, Twitter and the other social media companies were warned after Christchurch. They had years to prevent this from happening again and they failed. Now, the millions of shares of the propaganda videos from Buffalo will inspire untold numbers of individuals to attack marginalized communities. Social media companies are monetizing the Buffalo shooting. Their failure to prevent this deadly propaganda from spreading is a matter of urgent public safety and we need the Justice Department to step in and find out what happened and how far and wide and fast the Buffalo footage has spread.”
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.