Experts call for better tech regulation after America's violent weekend fueled by extremism

Experts say misinformation shared online can act as "weapons," influencing already unhinged people to potentially commit attacks

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Calls for tech oversight renewed amid rise in violent extremism
Experts say there's a need for better tech and social media regulation in order to prevent future extremist attacks in the U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Two mass shootings over the weekend left several people dead. In Buffalo, a gunman fired into a crowd at a supermarket before another incident on Sunday in Southern California involving a shooting at a church. Authorities are labeling both incidents as hate driven.

"What we have seen is that crime has gone up and that hate crime has gone up," said Brian Levin, Professor of Hate Crime and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. "We have to work on hate an anger, but we also have to work on limiting access to these weapons from unstable people."

In Buffalo, authorities say the gunman planned his attack well before executing it. He posted a long manifesto online detailing his attack and his motives behind it. He drove 200 miles to commit the mass shooting.

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"He became radicalized at the very depths of these internet platforms," Levin said.

The gunman streamed part of the attack on Twitch before the website stopped the stream. It ls causing other experts to be concerned about the role social media plays.

"It got stopped, great. But people had already recorded it and passed it on, and I think even this morning there were links to it on twitter," said Don Heider, Ethics Professor at Santa Clara University.

Heider fears the misinformation and conspiracies shared online only influence already unhinged people to potentially commit future attacks.

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"We are living in an era now where people are conflating truth with things we know to clearly be un true," Heider said. "This whole racial replacement theory which is definitely in his writings and in the things he posted is complete nonsense and yet it has been shared thousands of times."

Which is why he and Levin want lawmakers and social media companies to do a better job regulating that content.

"You have freedom of speech, but you don't have freedom of distribution," Levin said. "People should not be able to use public or semi-public domain to promote hate when we know there are downstream effects in violence"

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