How is social media contributing to violent extremism?

The deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, which was live-streamed for two minutes before it was taken down, has many people calling for social media sites to crack down on violence and hate. So we’re taking a closer look at what role social media plays in violent extremism. 

The goal of mass shooters is to kill as many people as possible usually in front of an audience as large as possible. So many of these gunmen are turning to social media to not only display their destruction, but also to hone their hateful ideas.  

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It’s been talked about for years. Now after 10 people were killed in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York allegedly by a self-described white supremacist, New York Governor Kathy Hochul says it’s time for social media sites to crackdown on hate speech. 

"There is a feeding frenzy on social media platforms where hate festers more hate. That has to stop, and we’re going to continue to work on this and make sure that those who provide these platforms have a moral and ethical, and I hope to have a legal responsibility to ensure that such hate can not populate these sites. This is the result when you have individuals who use these platforms and talk to others who share these demented views." Hochul says. 

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"The internet, social media what it’s doing, it’s providing an arena that didn’t previously exist," University of Houston History Professor Matt Clavin explains. 

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Clavin says social media is making its way into the history books for at least one reason site owners certainly don’t want.

"It was only 20 years ago, that in many parts of the United States if someone had, just the most extreme radical white supremacist views, they were sort of shunned by their peers, and it was hard for them to find allies." 

But now Clavin says, "They can go online and find an ally for any cause."  

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For instance, the 18-year-old alleged mass shooter in Buffalo is said to have written a 180-page manifesto and posted it online where many will read it. There was a time when friends, family, and colleagues would disrupt hateful dialogue before the first sentence was complete. But online hateful rantings will not only find listeners, but also get likes and positive comments.

"That’s absolutely what we’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years. Social media is taking these awful horrid, heinous ideas, and bringing them to a whole new audience," Clavin adds and he says history has also proven hateful words online often escalate to inflicting terror in the real world. 

"Violent language often leads to violence. Racist language often leads to racism or if racism is already present it amplifies it."