Washington — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Sunday that thethat and three wounded was “white supremacy terrorism” and urged social media companies to step up their enforcement efforts against extremist content.
“I’m calling on social media platforms to be making sure that they’re doing a better job monitoring the hate speech that’s out there, especially when it’s directed against populations and comes under the guise of white supremacy terrorism, which is exactly what happened here in Buffalo,” Hochul said in an interview with “Face the Nation,” discussing a manifesto that was purportedly written and posted by the suspected gunman before Saturday’s attack.
Police said the suspected shooter, identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron, opened fire at a Tops Friendly Market in an attack that was motivated by racial hatred, shooting 11 Black people and two White people. He was confronted by law enforcement at the store and taken into custody. Gendron was arraigned Saturday on a charge of murder in the first degree and pleaded not guilty.
Gendron lived in Conklin, New York, roughly three-and-a-half hours from the supermarket, and purportedly wrote and posted a hate-filled manifesto online, in which he said he chose the location for the attack because of its high Black population and relative proximity.
In the wake of the shooting, Hochul said her state is taking “proactive measures” to monitor social media platforms and called on internet companies to boost their monitoring of hate speech that “comes under the guise of white supremacy and terrorism,” including by hiring more people and changing their algorithms to more quickly identify hate speech.
“This information was out there. This was on a manifesto that was written a while back and so we’re very concerned about what other information is perpetrated out there on social media platforms and are out there being disseminated globally,” she said. “This information from yesterday’s attack is already out there, it was live-streamed, the intent of this individual was telegraphed in advance.”
Gendron streamed the beginning of the attack on the platform Twitch, and the company said it took the stream down within two minutes.
Noting that both federal and state law enforcement monitor platforms, Hochul called for a “multifaceted approach.”
“We need vigilance, not just law enforcement, but also from the platforms that are allowing this to spread. They have a responsibility as well,” she said.
While Gendron is facing a first-degree murder charge, the most severe under New York law, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn suggested Sunday that he may pursue a domestic terrorism charge. There is no federal statute, though, that classifies assault based on race or religion as a terror attack, and Hochul said there should be.
Still, Gendron can be prosecuted under both federal and state laws, and Hochul said it’s unlikely he ever leaves law enforcement custody.
“This individual is not going to see the light of day again, whether it’s under federal prosecution or state under our domestic terrorism laws or just murder 1,” she said. “This person murdered 10 innocent victims in our community just yesterday.”