I was thinking about writing a column about the “technical angle” of shooting Buffalo but ended up changing subjects at the last minute. Unfortunately, this topic is in the news again due to the horrific murder of innocent children in Texas.
To be clear, technology is not to blame for these shootouts. It was bullets, not bites – that killed 10 people in Buffalo and 21 people, including 19 elementary school students in Uvalde, Texas. Still, some people are blaming video games and social media along with mental illness. And there are others who claim that social media is worsening mental health leading to mass shootings.
It is worth revisiting the data on the relationship between violent video games and aggressive behavior, but based on what we know at this point, such games are not a major factor. I’m ready to increase funding for mental health programs, but, according to a 2019 report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease, mental illness is much closer to the US than countries with very low mass shooting rates. Is. Australia and New Zealand, which have seen significant reductions in gun violence, both had higher reported rates of mental illness than the United States.
violent video games
Some are blaming violent video games for these shootings, but according to a policy document from a department of the American Psychological Association, “There has been little evidence that there is a link between playing violent video games and actually committing violent activities.” make some causal or correlative relationship between them.” This does not mean that such games are necessarily appropriate for all children and adolescents, nor does it rely on statistics that such games can lead to aggressive behavior immediately after play, but as That the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his majority Supreme Court decision. California law regulating video games, “they show the best correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and small real-world effects, such as whether children feel more aggressive or a nonviolent game within minutes of playing a violent game.” Makes loud noises after playing.
When it comes to violence, there are four aspects of social media that should be considered:
- One is its effect on mental health in general.
- The second is the way it can radicalize and divide people, making it more likely that they will attempt to harm certain groups or individuals.
- The third factor is that the way social media is used to telegraph people’s intentions perhaps serves as a warning that they may be doing something to harm themselves and others.
- Fourth, the way in which social media is used to broadcast or celebrate violence or as a platform to share grievances of perpetrators.
I think it’s fair to say that social media can have an impact on mental health, but in addition to negative effects, there are also positive effects, depending on how it is used. Obsessive use of almost anything, including social media, can affect your self-esteem, especially if you are comparing yourself to others. There is evidence of a recent increase in adolescent mental health issues, but this can be attributed to a number of factors, including the pandemic and social isolation. But I have seen no concrete evidence of a general increase in aggressive or violent behavior as a result of social media, except in cases where people have been radicalized or vulnerable to violence as a result of participation in online forums that spread hate or misinformation. has gone.
By my second criterion, as the Associated Press put it, “The 18-year-old gunman accused of a deadly racist rampage at a Buffalo supermarket seems to fit an all-too-familiar profile: a victim white man engulfed in hatred-filled online conspiracies, And others are inspired by extremist genocide.”
As for my third point, there are many cases where killers have indicated their intentions on social media. In some cases, these were reported to the authorities and crimes were prevented. In others, they either go unnoticed or go unreported. So if you see anything to suggest potentially violent behavior it’s important to say something.
According to Number Four, in addition to being radicalized online, the young Buffalo killer took to Twitch to live-stream his attack and online to post a 180-page “manifesto” to share his racist and anti-immigrant views. went away. The murder of the patrons of a supermarket in a predominantly black area of Buffalo.
To its credit, Twitch removed killer content within minutes as is usually the goal of the social network. Nevertheless, major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are being used to spread hate speech and misinformation that can lead to violence, despite companies’ policies to ban such content and prevent it. It is removed when discovered.
Right to Thread Medium
If the Texas legislature has its way, social media companies could be banned from removing hate speech and misinformation as well as other content they deem offensive or inappropriate. A recently passed law, HB 20, was temporarily blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it allowed the law to remain in abeyance only during litigation in lower courts. The law, according to an analysis by the Texas Law Research Organization, “could create an incentive for companies not to remove material that may be objectionable but not illegal, such as bullying, misinformation, or even disinformation.” that hate speech.” The issue is whether private companies can be held to the same standards as government agencies when it comes to almost anything—the approach to free speech. Yes, you are allowed to spread lies or make racist, sexist and homophobic rhetoric on a public street, but I have a right to kick you out of my house if you do this in my living room, and until now, social media companies have Same right.
Assuming that the so-called anti-censorship laws passed in Texas are eventually abolished or repealed, social media companies will continue to have the right to enforce their rules. But when it comes to hate speech and incitement to violence, I will strengthen it by saying that it is their responsibility to do so. I know there are gray areas and slippery slopes whenever you restrict speech, but if I were running a company, I would do everything possible to avoid aiding and inciting bigotry and bigotry. .
But words, however despicable, do not kill people, although they may inspire violence. Those little body-crushing bullets from a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary School came from AR-15-style weapons that should never have been sold to an 18-year-old, or for that matter, from the military or law enforcement. Should not have been sold to anyone outside. , Just as the First Amendment is not absolute when it comes to images of child sexual abuse or shouting fire in an overcrowded theater, neither does the Second Amendment authorize any weapon that can be manufactured. If so, it would be legal to carry a fully automatic weapon or, for that matter, an atomic bomb, or a firearm for convicted criminals.
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and Internet security activist.