Following the incident on Tuesday, tech leaders argued for more gun control. At the same time, the tragedy again showed how quickly fake news can spread online
In the past, Silicon Valley companies have avoided the gun-control debate. However, the shooting at YouTube’s San Bruno campus in California may push the tech industry to speak out more in the future. The incident left three people wounded. The shooter, identified by police as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, died on the scene after suffering a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The first report about gunshots fired on YouTube’s campus came in at 12.46pm on Tuesday. Just a few hours earlier the shooter’s family had warned police that they were worried that she might do something bad. The family had noticed she’d become increasingly upset about YouTube’s changing policies, accusing the Alphabet affiliate of actively filtering away viewers from her channels dedicated to animal rights and veganism. As her views slumped, so did her income.
The family’s concerns grew considerably after she first stopped answering her phone over the weekend and that police told them they’d found Aghdam parked in Mountain View. "I Googled 'Mountain View' and it was close to YouTube headquarters and she had a problem with YouTube," her brother told 10News. "So I called that cop again and told him there’s a reason she went all the way from San Diego to there, so she might do something.” The police told them to keep an eye on her. Hours later she opened fire.
Commenting on the tragedy, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, tweeted: “There are no words to describe how horrible it was to have an active shooter [at] YouTube today. Our deepest gratitude to law enforcement [and] first responders for their rapid response. Our hearts go out to all those injured [and] impacted today. We will come together to heal as a family.”
And as Aghdam’s three victims were being treated for their wounds, the shocked tech industry was quick to offer their sympathy. People like Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google; Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Tim Cook, CEO of Apple: and Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, all commented on the incident and offered their condolences.
However, while they all did so without mentioning gun control, others answered by breaking Silicon Valley’s long-held taboo of speaking out against gun violence. Previously YouTube had banned all firearms advertisements on the video-streaming platform following the school shooting in Parkland. Now, after the tragedy on Tuesday, people joined the debate. For instance, Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, tweeted that this was “[another] tragedy that should push us again to [end gun violence].”
He was hardly alone. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, tweeted: “We can’t keep being reactive to this, thinking and praying it won’t happen again at our schools, jobs or our community spots. It’s beyond time to evolve our policies.”
However, Dorsey had other concerns to tackle as the shooting again highlighted the issue of fake news. Just like during last year’s Las Vegas massacre that left 58 people dead and 851 injured, the online trolls came out of their caves to spread misinformation about the incident. The fake news included posting pictures of fake gunmen, fake death tools and fake stories about what the shooter’s motivation was.
Responding to the lies, Dorsey said on Twitter: “We’re also aware of the misinformation being spread on Twitter. We’re tracking, learning and taking action. We’re working diligently on products to help.”
As the tech industry is rallying from the shock, it seems as if some of the head honchos of Silicon Valley no longer think “thoughts and prayers” – a term commonly used by Donald Trump on the back of such horrendous attacks, which he has been criticised for – are enough to stop gun violence.