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Buffalo mass shooting victims' families sue 4chan, others

Lawsuit also names other social media companies, firearms, armor dealers, shooter's parents
TBP Online
05 Jun 2023 18:16:27 | Update: 05 Jun 2023 18:45:10
Buffalo mass shooting victims' families sue 4chan, others
Police and FBI agents continue their investigation of the shooting at Tops market on May 15, 2022 in Buffalo — AFP Photo

The families of four victims of last year's mass shooting in Buffalo, New York are suing a number of companies, including Japanese toy company Good Smile Company and the popular anonymous message board 4chan.

The families are also suing Meta (formerly Facebook), Amazon, Twitch, Google, YouTube, Alphabet, Reddit, Snapchat, Discord, gun dealer Vintage Firearms, body armor manufacturer RMA Armament, and the parents of the shooter Payton Gendron.

The lawsuit mostly targets the social media companies where shooter Gendron was allegedly radicalized to hateful beliefs such as the "great replacement theory" and used algorithms to recommend content that affirmed these beliefs to Gendron.

Other social media companies and services targeted by the lawsuit include places where Gendron supposedly discussed and disseminated his plans, livestreamed the attack, or where he met and conversed with like-minded people who encouraged his act, such as 4chan.

WIRED reported in March that Good Smile Company invested US$2.4 million in 4chan in 2015, acquiring a 30% share in the website's finances. The Nendoroid and Figma toy company's investment was part of the 2015 sale of 4chan to 2channel founder Hiroyuki Nishimura.

The New York Attorney General's office had requested the contract from 4chan as part of its investigation into the website's involvement in inciting the Buffalo shooting, and WIRED was able to obtain the information through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Good Smile is the company that develops the popular Nendoroid and Figma figure lines. Nendoroid figures are small figures of anime, manga, and pop culture characters portrayed in a super-deformed style and may have limited poseability and swappable faces.

Figma is an action figure line of anime, manga, and pop culture characters focusing on high articulation and poseability.

Good Smile Company said in a statement to WIRED in April, “We do not have a partnership with 4chan, never had influence over the management and/or control of 4chan.”

However, it added, “We severed any limited relationship we previously had with 4chan in June of 2022. Since then, we have not had any relationship with 4chan.” The company has not responded to WIRED's further requests for comment, citing “confidentiality obligations.”

History of 2channel, 4chan, and Kadokawa Dwango

Nishimura founded the anonymous imageboard 2channel in 1999. The imageboard allows users to post images and messages anonymously and has more than 600 active "boards" dedicated to broad topics.

The Densha Otoko story originated in the site, as well as multiple other social phenomena. Nishimura resigned from the 2channel company in 2002.

Inspired by 2channel, Christoper Poole founded the 4chan anonymous imageboard in 2003, initially to discuss anime. The site is the origin of many Internet memes and social phenomena.

The site has gained notoriety for being the origin of the Anonymous hacktivist group and its open acceptance of offensive slurs and hate speech. Poole stepped down as the site's administrator and sold it to Nishimura in 2015.

Nishimura previously served as Director of Niwango Inc., the company that launched Nico Nico Douga, until 2013.

Dwango is the corporate parent of the game companies Spike Chunsoft and MAGES., as well as of Niwango. Nobuo Kawakami founded Dwango in 1997. After Kadokawa and Dwango merged in 2014 to form Kadokawa Dwango, Kawakami served as chairman of Kadokawa Dwango.

Kawakami then switched positions with then-President Tatsuo Satō to become president of Kadokawa Dwango in June 2015. Kawakami stepped down as chairman and chief technology officer of Dwango in 2017.