NY Launches Ridiculous, Blatantly Unconstitutional ‘Investigations’ Into Twitch, Discord; Deflecting Blame From NY’s Own Failings

from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

I recognized that lots of people are angry and frustrated over the mass murdering jackass who killed ten people at a Buffalo grocery store last weekend. I’m angry and frustrated about it as well. But, the problem with anger and frustration is that it often leads people to lash out in irrational ways, and to “do something” even if that “something” is counterproductive and destructive. In this case, we’ve already seen politicians and the media trying to drive the conversation away from larger issues around racism, mental health, law enforcement, social safety nets and more… and look for something to blame.

While they seem to recognize that they can’t actually blame news outlets that have fanned the flames of divisiveness and bigotry and hatred — because of the 1st Amendment — for whatever reason, they refuse to apply that basic recognition to newer media, such as video games and the internet.

We already discussed how NY’s governor, Kathy Hochul, seemed really focused on blaming internet companies for her own state’s failures to stop the shooter, and now her Attorney General, Letitia James, has made it official: she’s opening investigations into Twitch, 4chan, 8chan, and Discord, claiming that those were the platforms used by the murderer. James notes that she’s doing this directly in response to a request from Hochul.

“The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate,” said Attorney General James. “The fact that an individual can post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequence, and then stream it for the world to see is bone-chilling and unfathomable. As we continue to mourn and honor the lives that were stolen, we are taking serious action to investigate these companies for their roles in this attack. Time and time again, we have seen the real-world devastation that is borne of these dangerous and hateful platforms, and we are doing everything in our power to shine a spotlight on this alarming behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again.”

It has been reported that the shooter posted online for months about his hatred for specific groups, promoted white supremacist theories, and even discussed potential plans to terrorize an elementary school, church, and other locations he believed would have a considerable community of Black people to attack. Those postings included detailed information about plans to carry out an attack in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo and his visits to the site of the shooting in the weeks prior. The shooter also streamed the attack on another social media platform, which was accessible to the public, and posted a 180-page manifesto online about his bigoted views.

She claims that these investigations are authorized by the very broad law granting the AG the powers to investigate issues related to “the public peace, public safety and public justice.” Except, the 1st Amendment does not allow regulation of speech, and that’s what this investigation actually is.

Imagine the (quite reasonable) outrage if James announced she was opening an investigation into Fox News. Or, if you’re on the other side of the political aisle, imagine if Texas AG Ken Paxton announced an investigation into MSNBC. You’d immediately argue that those were politically motivated intimidation techniques, designed to suppress the free speech rights of those organizations.

The same is true here.

Or, if you’re going to argue that these websites are somehow different than news channels, let’s try this on for size. If you’re okay with James doing this investigation, are you similarly okay with Paxton investigating Discord, Facebook, Twitter and other such sites for groups forming to help women get an abortion? Or how would you feel if Florida’s Ashley Moody began investigating these sites for helping schoolchildren get access to books that are being banned.

You’d be correctly outraged, as you should in either case.

Anything that you could possibly “blame” any of these sites for is obviously protected by the 1st Amendment. First off, it’s almost guaranteed that none of these organizations had detailed knowledge of this one terrible person’s screeds and planning. Even in a world absent Section 230, the lack of actual knowledge by these platforms would mean that they could not be held liable, under the 1st Amendment.

Then again, we’re in a world where we do have Section 230, and that further makes this plan for an investigation ridiculous, because it seems quite clear that this investigation is an attempt to hold websites liable for the speech of one of its users. And that’s not allowed under 230.

Of course, you might argue that it’s not an attempt to hold them liable for his speech, but his murderous actions. But you’d still be wrong, because he didn’t use any of these websites to murder people. He may have used them to talk about whatever hateful ideology he has, and his plans, but that’s not (in any way) the same thing.

Meanwhile, it’s difficult to look at this and not think that AG James and Governor Hochul are hyping this all up to deflect from their own government’s failings. It’s now been widely reported that the shooter had made previous threats that law enforcement investigated. It’s also been reported that the weapon he used in the shooting included a high capacity magazine that is illegal in NY. Also, and this may be the most damning of all: there are reports that someone in the grocery store called 911 and the dispatcher HUNG UP ON THEM.

In other words, there appear to be multiple examples of how NY’s own law enforcement failed here. And I guess it’s not surprising that the Governor and the highest law enforcement officer of the state would rather pin the blame elsewhere, than reflect on how they, themselves, failed.

But, that lack of introspection is how we continue failing.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , ,
Companies: 4chan, 8chan, discord, twitch

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “NY Launches Ridiculous, Blatantly Unconstitutional ‘Investigations’ Into Twitch, Discord; Deflecting Blame From NY’s Own Failings”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Samuel Abram (profile) says:

As a New Yorker

This is quite disappointing to say the least. It’s taking on a moral panic instead of the actual underlying causes. If anything, this is the modern-day equivalent of Senators and state attorneys general starting investigations into violent video games.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

So, what the're saying is...

This guy was able to leave a HUGE trail of information about his hate crimes… But now they want to demonize the same platforms where he left all this information instead of being thankful for the huge amount of information he was able to leave for law enforcement to follow.

Isn’t that basically cutting off your nose to spite your face?

You’ll never get rid of haters and trolls, but by pushing them into the darker parts of the internet, you’re reducing the effective methods of tracing their past actions should they become actual criminals rather than just trolls.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:


instead of being thankful for the huge amount of information he was able to leave for law enforcement to follow.

FOSTA anybody?

Anonymous Coward says:

Letitia James, note that while it easy to decide whether a post in front of you is a terrorist threat, how long would it take you to find that post, with no name to look for, noting that millions of posts per minute are made on the Internet. Expecting any site to catch all posts that are indications of upcoming terrorist actions is s sure fire recipe for disappointment, as it can’t be done.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate,”

And yet the GOP, NRA, & Fox News all still have publicly available websites. Deal with the real hate or stop playin.

People who believe that Twitch killing the feed in 2 min was to slow are delusional.
They will not tell you how it could have been faster, just that they think it should have been with no evidence to support it could have been faster.

People who seem to think that Discord is the NSA and should be running keyword matching bots on every conversation on their platform are delusional.
They will not tell you how Discord could accomplish this massive intrusive feat, just that it could have been done again lacking any evidence it could be.

Lets drill down to the real problem here, politicians.
They can not, have not, will not, accept ANY of the blame for these things happening over & over & over.

We the people want it to stop, but politicians like donations more than stopping mass shootings.

We the people can see that mental health needs more funding to try and divert shooters, but the NRA needed another tax break.

We the people want to stop seeing lives cut short, but it is much to dangerous to even suggest anything to slow down access to a gun.

We the people want to see them focus on the ACTUAL causes of these tragedies rather than trying to grandstand while shitting on the Constitution once again with overreach to solve the problem with guns by gutting the free speech of some.

No one thing made him a shooter.
No one post made him a shooter.
There were a hundred missed chances to avoid this, but more time is spent forcing women to carry a baby to term than to notice that many of these mass killers have so many common elements between them you could build a profile that applies to almost all of them & then work on breaking that chain of events.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Whenever live, a network has someone monitoring the output, and their finger on the kill switch. Just how many people would Twitch need to perform the same live monitoring of live streams? If you were live streaming, could and would you pay someone to sit with a finger on a kill switch for your stream?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Some script kiddies managed to actually force shutdown streams with mere words in chat. On Youtube.

It also turns out that the streamers showed their chats on stream. And these jerks managed to also abuse Youtube’s stream monetization to show certain keywords that would force a live stream to shut down. And then massreport these streams.

The real kicker? These bots originally managed to DELETE Youtube accounts.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Rocky says:

Re: Re:

It’s funny how networks aren’t the same as thousands of live streams with no production teams.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: I hope you didn't think that was a gotcha

It’s almost as though there’s a difference between one video being broadcast that they are actively watching versus countless videos all going out at once that they can only deal with after being notified that a particular one might be problematic…

Naughty Autie says:


People who believe that Twitch killing the feed in 2 min was to slow are delusional.

Spiteful and/or ignorant, not delusional. There is a difference, you know. 😉

glenn says:

Continued failure of the legal system to actually punish the perpetrators of violent crimes only convinces more violent people to commit similar crimes. The punishment should fit the crime: if you use people for targets, then you should be used likewise.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Rico R. (profile) says:

Speaking of Texas's AG...

Who’s to say that the tech platforms that did NOT remove the speech chose not to under Texas’s new law about social media “censorship”? You know, the one reinstated by the fifth circuit? So with regards to these platforms’ actions (or lack thereof) on the mass shooter’s posts, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Do you know what we need? We need some sort of federal legislation that makes it clear whether or not social media platforms are allowed to moderate, and for what reason. Maybe then, we’ll have clarity on whether a tech platform can be held liable for the speech of others. Oh, wait…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anathema Device (profile) says:

“someone in the grocery store called 911 and the dispatcher HUNG UP ON THEM.”

Holy shit! I hadn’t read about this at all 🙁

There’s a serious need for an examination into the radicalisation of young men, in which message boards and the like play a role. But that’s got to be done systematically, carefully, thoughtfully, and intelligently, in a venue neutral way. Because it’s not the venue, it’s those behind the targeting which is the problem, and those people have many, many ways to get their message through to the susceptible. Including, of course, elected officials, mainstream media and prime time news.

Why does such a great state have such a shit governor?

Anonymous Coward says:


Why does such a great state have such a shit governor?

Have you seen what the Governors of Texas and Florida are like, New York is getting off lightly.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:


Why does such a great state have such a shit governor?

Because she was the Lieutenant Governor when our thrice-elected State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned in disgrace.

Lex says:

Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) holds that the First Amendment protects all speech in this regard except that speech which causes or intends to cause, and is likely to cause, “imminent, lawless action.” So, say, “One of these days I’m gonna shoot at a school” is protected, but not, “Let’s go shoot up X school right now!”

In the era of stochastic terrorism, is that good enough? Most legal experts say yes, including most smart ones. But this is an area in which smart legal experts can disagree, and a few of them do say that we should at least revisit Brandenburg.

I’m smart but not a legal expert. I don’t know the answer to that particular question. What I do know is that AFTER he threatened to shoot up a school, his parents bought him a hunting rifle (and so ought to go to prison for child endangerment at the least), and that he was legally able to buy an assault rifle (but not a beer) on his 18th birthday despite having made said threat. Those two facts are just nuts.

Naughty Autie says:


If what you say about the shithead’s parents buying him a firearm after he threatened to shoot up a school is true, then they should go to prison for public endangerment and reckless endangerment at the very least, their sentences comprising the maximum term on both charges for each person who was injured that day. Just sayin’.

Mark Kessinger says:

Re: Re: His parents didn't buy it for him . . .

@Naughtie Autie — His parents didn’t buy the gun for him. He bought it himself — as he was legally able to do — from a store in Endicott, NY/

Cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

He had 3 guns. He only carried one of them during the attack, the other 2 we’re in the car. He did not buy an assault rifle, he modified a regular rifle in an illegal way. He didn’t make a specific threat against the school. He answered a question about what he wants to do when he retires one day and he wrote murder/suicide. But that was enough to get him in for an evaluation, in what is likely a seriously under-resourced hospital (many if not most mental health facilities are).
However, his parents knew he was troubled, had no friends. Any mention of suicide should be enough reason not to buy him a gun or not permit him to keep possession of one in their home. But they ignored his problems and apparently didn’t seek additional help after that exam. The school, the local police took one little thing as enough reason to commit him for an exam, but were too lazy to see if there were other public records indicating how serious his problems were, including a detailed written account of this little shit torturing and killing a neighborhood cat (I don’t know whether that occurred before or after the incident at school). But they couldn’t be bothered I guess, nothing worry some about a white loner teenage boy talking about murder suicide. And the parents, who knows. This little shit is a legal adult, we aren’t going to find out if his home life reflected anything like the Crumbley kid. There’s a whole lotta failure here that has nothing to do with Twitch or Discord or Reddit.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Look, look at us Doing Something!'

Admitting that they or other powerful figures might in any way be responsible, both for what they do and what they don’t do would lay the blame and responsibility to fix it at their feet, much easier to just blame the boogieman that is social media and grandstand about how Something Must Be Done(so long as it doesn’t cost them anything or require any admission of guilt).

Anonymous Coward says:

The elephant in the room

The US government will do anything to stop mass shootings except impose the most obvious of measures: prohibiting the general public from purchasing firearms.

It’s really not rocket science. But time and time and again, they’ll just tiptoe around the central issue?

It’s mental health! It’s radicalization! But, surely, it CAN’T be the fact that there are more firearms than people in our country, right?

Anonymous Coward says:


Guns do not kill people, governments do.

While making guns harder to get will drive down certain statistics (ie, gun suicides, which are factored into gun violence statistics), it will not stop determined assholes into smuggling one in, illegally 3D Printing a gun, or worse.

In fact, all it does is make the people at the mercy of a corrupt, malicious gov-

Oh, sorry there, America. I forget that even when proud American citizens use their guns for legitimate self-defense and protecting their homes and businesses, instead of fucking praising them for being more American than most, they get fucked over because they’re not white.

And then when a BLACK President gets elected, the first thing the Republicans did was go full NeoNazi.

Even the Clown President Bush Junior didn’t manage to send more American men to their deaths, and he started TWO WARS.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re:

Even the Clown President Bush Junior didn’t manage to send more American men to their deaths, and he started TWO WARS.

Zero wars, actually. Tony Blair started the Iraq War by telling lies to Bush Jr. about the existence of WMDs in Iraq, and the Taliban began the War in Afghanistan by flying aeroplanes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon around eighteen months earlier.

Anonymous Coward says:


Boy, it would really suck for that argument if part of the weapon the shooter used was already illegal, wouldn’t it? Good thing that couldn’t possibly have happened, right?

Cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah because gun regulations are enforced in a racially neutral manner.
You do understand that gun control laws were created to prevent black people from owning and protecting themselves with guns. And even gun laws that aren’t designed to target black people are always disproportionately used against them. From sentencing enhancement, more police encounters which means more violence at the hands of police. Enacting the laws in minority majority areas with high poverty concentration, instead of addressing the poverty that is inextricably linked to violence.
The root of the problem isn’t the guns, it’s the hate, the fear, the racism and misogyny. It’s the patriarchy’s death grip on society that tells men not to talk about their feelings, and who to blame for their problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hormone therapy is the solution to rid us of this scourge of toxic masculine, heteronormative freaks of nature. Women and LGBT people would never behave in such a disgraceful manner. It’s all thanks to incels who think that having a penis entitles them to sex. Castration – by all the means – would be the way to nip this problem in the bud. Everyone knows futanari are superior, anyway.

Cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

I’m not sure what point you think you are making here, but let me set you straight.
The patriarchy is every bit as damaging to men as it is women. And it is perpetuated by men and women alike. As a feminist, one point that there is monolithic agreement is that women’s rights are human rights. We love our husbands, sons, brothers, fathers; attacking their genitals as some kind of tit for tat is wrong.
Masculinity is not inherently toxic or bad. Women can and do perpetrate evil, and sexual orientation does not exempt people from violent actions. Several especially violent serial killers were homosexuals who preyed on men.
The idea of forcing such a drastic, violent action on men as some sort of cure for social ills is grounds for violent self defense and I would absolutely stand up to protect men, regardless of whether I could expect the same from all of them. I want to live in a society with less brutality, not more evenly distributed brutality.
The patriarchy, the incumbents of the current power structure are not happy that society is changing, and they won’t take it lying down. That’s why we hear bullshit like the replacement theory, and all the crying about discussing race, gender, and sex in school, and the utter garbage that is the prolife movement. Call me a radical feminist if you want, but don’t think that some how makes me a misandrist, or that misandry is a real thing (outside of maybe 50 women worldwide).
This idea of forced castration, or vasectomy (although I do appreciate the lawmakers point, I don’t agree with actually doing that) is no different than whoever the troll somewhere up the thread was saying shooters should be shot. Sure some times I feel very angry and a bit of a bloodlust boils up inside of me. But violence begets violence, always.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...