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

Plaintiffs claim the social media platforms played a role in the shooting.

March 19, 2024, 11:46 AM

A judge has allowed the lawsuit against YouTube and Reddit related to the 2022 deadly Tops supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York, to move forward.

The lawsuit, filed by survivors of the shooting and a family member of a victim, claims that the two social media brands were “instrumental in preparing the shooter to commit his heinous attack.”

Ten people, all African American, were killed in a racially motivated mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May 2022, an attack that shook the nation and underscored a rise in white supremacy across the country.

In the shooter's plan to attack the supermarket, he described the radical, racist and antisemitic ideals he said he cultivated on the internet.

PHOTO: The interface of 'Reddit' is being displayed on a mobile phone.
The interface of 'Reddit' is being displayed on a mobile phone.
Ahmet Serdar Eser/Anadolu via Getty Images

“Their unreasonably dangerous and negligent design choices resulted in the shooter’s addiction to their products, and caused him to develop the mentality required to target and kill Black people who were innocently shopping at their local market,” the lawsuit states.

It continues, “In addition to facilitating the shooter’s radicalization, the design of these social media platforms provided the shooter with knowledge regarding the tools, products, and skills he needed to commit the mass shooting at Tops.”

Erie County Supreme Court Judge Paula L. Feroleto denied YouTube and Reddit’s motions to dismiss the complaint. The social media platforms had argued that because they hosted third-party content, they were not liable under the Communications Decency Act and the First Amendment. Both companies plan on appealing the decision.

In a statement to ABC News, a Reddit spokesperson said “hate and violence have no place on Reddit.”

The spokesperson cited their sitewide policies, which 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," they said.

PHOTO: Youtube is displayed on mobile phone.
Youtube is displayed on mobile phone.
Mehmet Futsi/Anadolu via Getty Images

The statement continued, “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."

In a statement to ABC News, a YouTube spokesperson expressed “the deepest sympathies” for the victims and families of the Tops shooting.

“Through the years, YouTube has invested in technology, teams, and policies to identify and remove extremist content,” said spokesperson José Castañeda. “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."

Feroleto's decision comes just weeks after she denied motions to dismiss from the gun store Vintage Firearms, LLC and gun part manufacturer MEAN Arms, two other defendants in the case.

Everytown Law, the anti-gun violence legal advocacy group, claims that Mean Arms “manufactured a gun lock that provided a fake veneer of compliance with New York gun laws” and that Vintage Firearms, LLC, sold him an “illegal AR-15-style rifle.”

The complaint claims RMA Armament, the third defendant in the case, “equipped the shooter with combat-grade body armor without reasonable vetting.”

Vintage Firearms, LLC, owner Robert Donald pointed ABC News to a statement on their online fundraiser, which claimed that the lawsuits are politically motivated.

"The real motive behind lawsuits like this is clear: to bankrupt gun dealers so that law-biding citizens do not have access to firearms," the statement read. "Rather than placing the blame on Gendron, the individual who is personally responsible for these Horrific crimes, politically motivated organizations have chosen to use this tragedy to pursue gun control through the courts."

ABC News reached out to MEAN Arms, LLC and RMA Armament for comment on the lawsuit.