Investigation into social media platforms following Buffalo mass shooting

New state police unit created to track violent extremism online and tackle gun violence

Days after a deadly mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday took a series of aggressive steps to strengthen New York's gun laws and to investigate the social media platforms where the suspected gunman was radicalized and where police say he streamed his racist attack.

The measures included the creation of a new unit, led by state police, to track violent extremism online, and a directive requiring state police to use New York’s so-called red-flag law to seek emergency orders to seize weapons from people who are believed to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Ms Hochul also asked the state attorney general, Letitia James, to investigate the role of several online platforms, including Discord, a chat application where the suspect posted racist writings before the Saturday afternoon massacre.

Like other mass shootings in the United States, the attack in Buffalo has rekindled a debate over mental health, white supremacy and access to guns, while prompting calls, often unheeded, for changes to federal law.

Ms Hochul emphasised that she was taking concrete steps in response to the attack, which left 10 people dead in a largely Black neighbourhood, to toughen state laws that are already among the most strict in the nation.

"This is white supremacy in this nation at its worst," the governor said at a news conference at her Manhattan office.

“It’s infecting our society, it’s infecting our nation and now it’s taken members of our family away.”

The man charged in the killings, Payton Gendron, specifically targeted Black people in the attack, travelling some 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York, to find a place with a large Black population, according to authorities.

In his online posts, Mr Gendron (18) referred repeatedly to replacement theory, which posits a nefarious plot to "replace" white people with people of colour. All 10 of those killed in the Buffalo attack were Black, making it one of the worst racist mass shootings in recent US history.

In a letter to Ms James, the governor asked the attorney general to “investigate the specific online platforms that were used to broadcast and amplify the acts and intentions” of the suspect.

Such an inquiry could involve issuing subpoenas to compel witness testimony and asking companies to preserve documents related to Gendron's activities, which, police say, included livestreaming the attack on the Amazon-owned site Twitch. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.