Social media firms faced anger and calls to ‘step up’ last night after graphic footage of an anti-Semitic gun rampage in Germany was streamed live on Twitch and watched by thousands of people.
Wearing a helmet camera, the gunman filmed himself shooting two people dead and trying to force his way into a synagogue in Halle on Wednesday.
The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch, an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished before it was finally taken down.
In that time more than 2,000 people viewed the footage and some of them distributed it further via other social media networks.
The German synagogue shooter (pictured), named in German media as 27-year-old Stephan Balliet, uploaded live footage of his massacre to Amazon-owned website Twitch
The shooter, named in German media as 27-year-old Stephan Balliet, had created his Twitch account two months before Wednesday’s Yom Kippur violence.
Last night there were calls for social media sites to take stronger action to stop their platforms being used for violence.
‘Amazon is just as much to blame as Twitch for allowing this stream online,’ said Hans-Jakob Schindler of the Counter Extremism Project.
‘Online platforms need to step up and stop their services being used and in turn, parent companies need to hold them accountable.
‘This tragic incident demonstrates one more time that a self-regulatory approach is not effective enough and sadly highlights the need for stronger regulation of the tech sector.’
Kelly Ellis, a former Google software engineer, said it was ‘upsetting’ that extremist content had been allowed to ‘thrive’ on the platform.
‘Expecting answers and big changes from Twitch,’ she said.
Experts believe shooting videos may inspire other people to commit similar atrocities.
The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch (file photo), an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished
Wearing a helmet camera, the gunman filmed himself shooting two people dead and trying to force his way into a synagogue in Halle on Wednesday
Twitch’s community guidelines say that acts of violence ‘are considered zero-tolerance violations’ and will lead to accounts being suspended.
However, there is no mention of any system which could detect and take down violent videos while they are being streamed.
As a result, the video was not taken down until it was ‘flagged’ more than an hour after the live-stream began.
The video shows graphic, uncensored footage of the gunman shooting a woman dead in the street before opening fire in a kebab shop, killing another man.
He also tries, but fails, to blast his way into a synagogue where worshippers were praying on Judaism’s holiest day of the year.
An excerpt of the video in which the shooter ranted about immigration and the Holocaust was also shared on Twitter, although such clips were quickly removed.
German authorities urged people not to share footage of the attack online but to hand it to police.
‘We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected,’ a Twitch spokesman said.
Police outside a kebab shop where a man was shot dead after the German synagogue gunman drove away from the place of worship after failing to force his way inside
Special police forces officers armed with sub-machine guns patrol after the attack in Halle
‘Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously.
‘We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.
‘The account owner streamed this horrific act live on Twitch for 35 minutes, during which time it was viewed by approximately five people.
‘A recording of the stream, which was automatically generated based on the account’s settings, was viewed by approximately 2,200 people in the 30 minutes before the video was flagged and removed from Twitch.
‘This video was not surfaced in any recommendations or directories; instead, our investigation suggests that people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services.
‘Once the video was removed, we shared the hash with an industry consortium to help prevent the proliferation of this content.
‘We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community.’
The gunman had only attempted a live-stream on Twitch once before, the company said.
The suspect was arrested last night and Germany’s interior minister said it appeared to be an anti-Semitic attack, possibly motivated by far-right extremism.
Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of the shooting in Halle in former East Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets members of the Jewish community at a vigil in Berlin on Wednesday evening
Twitch, which has gained a following for live-streaming gaming, was acquired by Amazon for $970million (£790million at current prices) in 2014.
Wednesday’s attack appeared to be the first real-world violence livestreamed on Twitch, said Hannah Bloch-Wehba, a law professor at Drexel University in the US.
She said it was hard to guess why Twitch was chosen, although she noted that recent attempts by Facebook and Twitter to crack down on such material may be forcing attackers to look for new outlets.
‘Filtering algorithms so far have not been very good at detecting violence on livestream,’ noted Jillian Peterson, a professor of criminology at Hamline University in Minnesota.
‘Social media – and now livestreaming services — have given perpetrators a larger stage and wider audience,’ he said.
‘Perpetrators are looking to show their grievance to the world, and livestreaming gives them the means to do it.’
Social media sites came under pressure after the New Zealand mosque shooter uploaded a similar live-stream to Facebook as he killed 51 people in March.
New Zealand police said in the aftermath of the attack that they were ‘actively investigating’ other social media users who had shared the footage.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, from Australia faces trial over the massacre.
Last month Facebook announced additional efforts at the United Nations during a meeting with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has taken up the cause of fighting online extremism.
Also last month, Amazon announced it was joining the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an alliance tasked with tackling the most dangerous content on social media.