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Mass Shooting Lawsuits Take Aim at Social Media Influence and Negligence

Mass Shooting Lawsuits Take Aim at Social Media Influence and Negligence

Two lawsuits have been filed against social media companies, the shooter’s parents, and gun manufacturers on behalf of survivors and a family member of one of the victims of last year’s racist mass shooting in a Buffalo grocery store, respectively.

The claims claim Payton S. Gendron’s parents “abdicated their duties,” failing to act despite knowing their son had mental health problems and failing to take any steps to limit his access to at least one pistol. Payton was 18 at the time.

The civil complaints were filed Tuesday in New York’s Erie County State Supreme Court and allege negligence on the part of the gun magazine lock maker, the company that gave Gendron the gun he used in the shooting, and the company that provided him protective gear.

In February, Gendron received a life sentence for his role in the shooting massacre that took place at a Tops Friendly Markets in East Buffalo on May 14, 2022, killing ten people. Black people made up 100% of the dead. “I did a terrible thing that day,” he said at the sentencing hearing.

The tweet below verifies the news:

“I shot and killed people because they were Black. Looking back now, I can’t believe I actually did it. I believed what I read online and acted out of hate. I know I can’t take it back, but I wish I could, and I don’t want anyone to be inspired by me and what I did.”

In addition to Gendron’s parents and Google, the lawsuits also name YouTube and Reddit as defendants. The claims claim that Gendron was “transformed and addicted” by social media sites, priming him for violence.

According to the complaints, Gendron wrote frequently in his diary about the “consuming influence Reddit and YouTube had on him,” especially in the weeks leading up to the attack at Tops. Both compensatory and punitive damages are being sought in the claims.

A spokesperson for YouTube told NBC News, “We have the deepest sympathies for the victims and families of the horrific attack at Tops grocery store in Buffalo last year. Through the years, YouTube has invested in technology, teams, and policies to identify and remove extremist content. We regularly work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices.”

CNN has contacted out for comment to social media platforms, YouTube parent firm Google, weapons manufacturers, and Gendron’s parents’ lawyers.

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Those who Survived feel Accountability is Essential

Wayne Jones, whose mother Celestine Chaney was killed in the attack, filed one of the claims. “Just as the Shooter is being held to account criminally for his actions, the defendants named in this lawsuit must answer for the critical roles they played in facilitating this reprehensible mass shooting,” according to the lawsuit.

Jones stated that the attack “could have been prevented” in a news statement issued on Wednesday by the non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety. “The violent actions of a white supremacist who targeted my community ripped my mother away from me, and her nine grandchildren,” Jones said.

“This racist attack could have been prevented; numerous companies and individuals had the power to stop it from happening. My only hope is that this lawsuit can raise awareness and hold them accountable so that another gunman can’t inflict the same kind of terror and incalculable damage.”

Fragrance Harris Stanfield, one of 16 survivors named in the second case, hopes the defendants be found guilty and punished. “I’ll never forget the sounds of gunshots echoing throughout Tops on what felt like a typical Saturday afternoon when, in the blink of an eye, my grocery store turned into a war zone,” Harris Stanfield said in the press release from Everytown.

“While I escaped without a bullet wound, the terror that the shooter inflicted on me and other survivors will live with us forever. It’s my hope that this lawsuit can help to not only hold the individuals and entities accountable who allowed the shooter to carry out his racist rampage, but that we can also change the conversation around who constitutes a victim following tragedies like this one.”

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