Lawsuit against Reddit, YouTube from Buffalo shooting survivors will move forward

Memorial of flowers^ dove cut-outs and pictures of the African American victims of the mass shooting in Buffalo NY at a Tops supermarket. Buffalo^ New York^ USA- June 11^ 2022

A New York state judge has ordered that lawsuits against Reddit and Google’s YouTube can more forward, seeking to hold the social media platforms responsible for helping enable the avowed white supremacist who killed 10 Black people in 2022 at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.

Justice Paula Feroleto of the Erie County Supreme Court said that the 25 plaintiffs can proceed with their lawsuit that is alleging that the social media platforms were designed to addict and radicalize users, which in turn gave the shooter, Payton Gendron, knowledge of the equipment and training needed for the mass shooting at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, NY. Gendron, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty to charges including murder and terrorism motivated by hate. He was sentenced in February 2023 to life in prison without parole, and also faces federal charges. The U.S. Department of Justice said in January it plans to seek the death penalty.

The civil lawsuits were filed by the gun control advocacy group Everytown Law; executive director Eric Tirschwell said: “We must hold accountable every single bad actor that prepared and equipped the shooter to target and kill members of Buffalo’s Black community.”  The 25 plaintiffs included store employees and customers who witnessed the May 14, 2022, shooting, and the son of one of those killed. Reddit and YouTube had sought a dismissal to the lawsuit, stating that they merely host third-party content and are not liable under a federal law governing such content: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, or the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. However, the judge said the plaintiffs can attempt to show Reddit and YouTube owed them a duty because their platforms were defective and led to injuries, adding that the mental distress that many witnesses suffered justified their pursuit of negligence-based claims.

Reddit said in a statement that hate and violence have no place on its platform, and that they continue to evaluate means to remove such content. YouTube spokesman Jose Castaneda said that they will appeal the decision, while expressing its “deepest sympathies” for attack victims and their families

Editorial credit: Val Dunne Photography /