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Judge rules YouTube, Facebook and Reddit must face lawsuits claiming they helped radicalize a mass shooter

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 19 MAR 24 08:18 ET

Updated: 19 MAR 24 10:16 ET

By Melissa Alonso, CNN

(CNN) — A New York state judge on Monday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against several social media companies alleging the platforms contributed to the radicalization of a gunman who killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York in 2022, court documents show.

“The Court has determined the complaint sufficiently pleads viable causes of action to go forward at this stage of the litigation,” said Erie County Supreme Court Justice Paula Feroleto.

In her decision, the judge said that the plaintiffs may proceed with their lawsuit, which claims social media companies — like Meta, Alphabet, Reddit and 4chan — ”profit from the racist, antisemitic, and violent material displayed on their platforms to maximize user engagement,” including the time then 18-year-old Payton Gendron spent on their platforms viewing that material.

Attorneys for the social media companies named in the lawsuit filed a motion to dismiss saying the companies are akin to message boards containing third-party content, court documents show.

“However, plaintiffs contend the defendants’ platforms are more than just message boards,” the court document says.  “They allege they are sophisticated products designed to be addictive to young users and they specifically directed Gendron to further platforms or postings that indoctrinated him with ‘white replacement theory’,” the decision read.

“It is far too early to rule as a matter of law that the actions, or inaction, of the social media/internet defendants through their platforms require dismissal,” said the judge.

CNN has reached out to Meta for comment.

YouTube Spokesperson José Castañeda provided a statement to CNN expressing sympathy for the victims and families of the attack and saying that YouTube has invested in technology and policies to identify and remove extremist content.

“While we disagree with today’s decision and will be appealing, we will continue to work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices,” the statement said.

In a statement to CNN, Reddit said, “Hate and violence have no place on Reddit. Our sitewide policies explicitly prohibit content that promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability, as well as content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people. We are constantly evaluating ways to improve our detection and removal of this content, including through enhanced image-hashing systems, and we will continue to review the communities on our platform to ensure they are upholding our rules.”

Reddit plans to appeal the decision, a spokesperson confirmed.

CNN’s Olesya Dmitracova contributed to this report

The-CNN-Wire
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Payton Gendron

**This image is for use with this specific article only** A wrongful death lawsuit against several social media platforms brought on by the Buffalo, New York, mass shooting perpetrated by Payton Gendron has been allowed to move forward by a judge.

Derek Gee/Reuters via CNN Newsource

19 Mar 24

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