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Twitch details response after Buffalo shooter livestreamed mass shooting

Site claims it ended stream less than two minutes after it began, is trying to stop the footage from spreading

Content warning: Article contains references to terror attack, mass shooting and racism

Twitch has released a statement detailing its actions after the gunman behind a mass shooting in the US used the streaming platform to broadcast his crime.

On Saturday, May 14, a man killed 10 people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The BBC reports this was a racially-motivated crime, with Buffalo's chief of police telling US media that the gunman planned to "shoot more Black people" after this attack.

The gunman also used his Twitch account to livestream the incident. However, the site claims it was able to identify and remove the stream within less than two minutes and has permanently banned the user.

The company is also "taking all possible action" to stop the footage, and any related content, from spreading on Twitch, with an emphasis on removing accounts or content that rebroadcasts the shooter's video.

In a statement, Twitch reiterated it has a zero-tolerance policy on violence.

"We are heartbroken over this tragedy," the company wrote. "This was a violent act of white supremacy and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

"Our hearts go out to all those affected by this hate crime -- the victims, their loved ones, the greater Buffalo community, and the Black community everywhere who are victimised by acts of white supremacy and racism."

Twitch is working with the FBI, Homeland Security and NYPD Cyber Intelligence Unit, as well as other law enforcement divisions, to help the investigation and prosecution following this attack.

The statement continued: "We take our responsibility to protect our community extremely seriously, and trust and safety is a major area of investment. As we've shared in the past, live content moderation presents unique challenges, and we are continuously evaluating our policies, processes, and products to keep our community safe. We'll be examining this incident carefully and sharing those learnings with our peers in the industry to support a safer internet overall."

It concluded: "Bigotry and hate don't happen in a vacuum. They're enabled by a permissive culture when we don't create spaces where people feel empowered to speak up. We thank you for the advocacy that you bring to Twitch every day, and for the user reports that help us catch and remove harmful content in real time. We will continue investing in our commitment to preventing behaviour and content that lead to harm, and amplifying positive voices in the space."

This is not the first time Twitch has encountered this problem. In 2019, the shooter behind the attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand broadcast his crime via the site, as did the gunman who killed two people in Halle, Germany later that year.

Also that year, a group of users flooded the little used sub-category for Valve's collectible card game Artifact with inappropriate content, including footage from the Christchurch shooting. Twitch later sued these streamers.

Last year, UK regulator Ofcom introduced new measures targeting video platforms such as Twitch to encourage stricter actions when protecting viewers from this sort of content.

Twitch also has its own issues to deal with when it comes to racism, with long-running hate raids leading to the #ADayOffTwitch boycott last year, as well as the #TwitchDoBetter movement.

The Black Twitch streamers and supporters behind the latter published an open letter to the site's CEO Emmett Shear earlier this year, calling on the company to take more action in tackling racism on its platform.

As our investigation in 2020 revealed, racism has been a long-running problem at Twitch, both on the site itself and behind the scenes.

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James Batchelor

Editor-in-Chief

James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He is based in Essex and has been a B2B games journalist since 2006