A New Lawsuit Tests the Pipeline of White Supremacy Online

Elmore says the goal is to force reform.

“We can’t bring back the victims of this lawsuit, but we can make sure that no other family has to file this type of lawsuit,” he says. No family deserves to be a member of this unenviable club, says Elmore.

The lawsuit essentially points to the entire journey that took Gendron from being a normal American teenager to becoming a violent white supremacist, one equipped with the means and intent on massacring as many Black people as possible. They point to platforms like Facebook and Snapchat as the first part of that process.

“Gendron’s radicalization on social media was not a coincidence or an accident,” the complaint alleges. “It was the foreseeable consequence of the conscious decision of the defendant social media companies to design, program, and operate platforms and tools that maximize user engagement (and corresponding advertising revenue) at the expense of public safety.”

The lawsuit claims that the white supremacist ideology that captured Gendron, particularly the “great replacement theory,” which imagines an international plot to undermine white political power, is a “product of social media.” While it may have been conjured up by a French author and promoted by inveterate neo-Nazis, the lawsuit claims that “proponents of the replacement theory rely heavily on social media, and the tools and features Defendants use on social media.” to increase their own commitment, to promote racist ideology among young and impressionable adherents.

Exposure to this type of hate propaganda as a teenager, combined with the addictive nature of social media, fundamentally altered Grendron’s brain chemistry, Elmore argues in his documents.

Social media platforms maximized user engagement “not by showing them the content they request or want to see, but by showing them and recommending content they can’t take their eyes off,” the complaint continues. “Taking full advantage of the incomplete development of Gendron’s frontal lobe, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat remained committed to the product by targeting it with increasingly extreme and violent content and connections that were reportedly and believed to promote racism, bullying. antisemitism and gun violence. ”

This is not a mistake, Elmore argues. “These products were working as designed and intended.”

These platforms pointed Gendron to the next step in his radicalization: 4chan.

While there is no algorithm on the notorious image board, there was a “community of fellow racists who were waiting for me to urge him on,” the lawsuit alleges. In addition, Gendron was a frequent user of /k/, the weapon board. That community and others like it on Discord helped him prepare for the attack and increase his chances of success.

The lawsuit singles out 4chan’s financial backer, Good Smile, a major Japanese toy company that in 2015 invested $2.4 million to earn a 30 percent stake in the site, according to documents obtained by WIRED. Pointing to reports from WIRED and a lawsuit filed by former company employees, the families allege that Good Smile’s role at 4chan “is not that of a passive investor, but rather that he is actively involved in the management of the social networking site.” .

In an April statement, Good Smile denied WIRED’s reports, insisting: “We do not have an association with 4chan, we have never had influence over the management and/or control of 4chan.” However, in the same statement, Good Smile also says: “We severed any limited relationship we previously had with 4chan in June 2022. Since then, we have not had any relationship with 4chan.” The company has cited “confidentiality obligations” preventing it from commenting on the matter and has ignored multiple requests for comment.


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