Insights Ofcom publishes report on how online platforms responded to attack in Buffalo, New York on 14 May 2022


As Ofcom explains, on 14 May 2022 an 18-year-old far-right extremist allegedly undertook a violent terrorist attack on a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Buffalo, New York. During the attack, he killed ten individuals and injured three others, the majority of whom were black. The attack was livestreamed, recorded and disseminated on several online services along with a manifesto and “diary”. Versions of the footage and associated content spread across multiple online services, potentially exposing UK users to terrorist content.

As the regulator of UK-established video-sharing platforms (VSPs) and considering the Online Safety Bill, Ofcom sought to learn from this tragic event by reviewing tech firms’ responses. This included the measures they had in place to protect their users from seeing terrorist content and how they worked together to help prevent the footage spreading in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

When it became apparent the attack had been livestreamed, Ofcom engaged with regulated VSPs to understand the measures they had in place to protect their users from video content related to the terrorist incident.

While this exercise did not identify evidence to suggest failures to comply with the current regulations, the report highlights important implications for online safety that Ofcom expects industry to take account of. Ofcom says that platforms will be better able to tackle terrorism online if they focus on:

  • making it easy for users to report livestreamed attacks, while ensuring their content moderation teams are appropriately resourced to quickly deal with such reports;
  • tackling the spread of online terrorist content through further cross-industry collaboration, including on smaller services;
  • providing clear, transparent and accessible terms of service setting out how they tackle terrorist, violent and hateful content; and
  • assessing the risks of their platforms being exploited by attackers at the product design and engineering stage.

Ofcom says that it will take these insights forward as appropriate as it prepares to take on broader online safety duties under the Online Safety Bill, including the development of Codes of Practice relating to illegal content and associated risk assessment guidance.

Ofcom will also continue to work with UK-established VSPs to ensure the efficacy of their measures to protect users from illegal terrorist material and content that incites hatred and to assess any evidence it finds of potential breaches of the VSP regulations. To access the report, click here.