Yesterday, a shooter walked into YouTube’s headquarters in California and began firing at employees, leaving three people injured with gunshot wounds. A picture of the tragedy, and the suspect behind it, is now emerging. Here are the facts that have come to light so far.
Around lunchtime on Tuesday, April 3rd, employees at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California, began reporting gunshots fired in the building. Several employees called 911, and others tweeted about the shooting, including Vadim Lavrusik, whose message was widely cited in early reports.
THREE PEOPLE ARE BEING TREATED FOR GUNSHOT WOUNDS
A San Bruno police report says that officers arrived on site a few minutes after receiving calls about the shooting. YouTube employees were evacuating the building, and police encountered one person with an apparent gunshot wound, while two others, also wounded, had already left the campus. These three people were taken to the hospital, and as of yesterday, one was listed in fair condition, another in serious condition, and a third in critical condition. A fourth person was treated for a twisted ankle, possibly sustained while escaping the building.
Inside the building, police found a deceased woman who has been identified as Nasim Aghdam, a 39-year-old woman from San Diego who apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
THE SHOOTER’S MOTIVE
Early reports suggested that the attack had been committed by a woman attempting to shoot her boyfriend. But San Bruno police said they had no evidence that the shooter knew any of her victims or was targeting a specific person.
There was, however, evidence that Aghdam had a long-running grudge against YouTube. Her father Ismail Aghdam apparently reported her missing the night before the shooting and told police that she might be headed to YouTube, a company she “hated.” Police later found Aghdam sleeping in her car in Mountain View, California. Ismail Aghdam told The Mercury News that his daughter had complained to the family about YouTube “censoring” and demonetizing her videos.
Her brother Shahran Aghdam said “she was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life.” He also said that he warned police she might “do something” at the company headquarters, after hearing that she’d driven to Mountain View and discovering that YouTube’s campus was located there.
AGHDAM COMPLAINED ABOUT YOUTUBE ONLINE
She regularly posted videos about veganism and animal rights and claimed that YouTube was deliberately filtering and demonetizing her work to stop it from getting views. “There is no free speech in real world [and] you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system,” she wrote on a personal website. “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want [it] to!!!!!”
This is an extreme version of a claim that’s been made by many YouTubers. Users across the political spectrum have alleged that YouTube pulled ads on videos that didn’t violate its terms for monetization, or filtered videos to make them harder to find. A judge recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by conservative organization PragerU, which said that YouTube had discriminated against its videos. And creators protested a January decision to only monetize channels with a certain number of subscribers and viewing hours, limiting the options for smaller or newer channels. Obviously, however, this is all peaceful criticism of the site — not anything equivalent to Aghdam’s shooting.
HOAXES AND CONSPIRACIES
Misinformation began spreading immediately after the shooting. Soon after Lavrusik reported himself safe on Twitter, a hoaxer hacked his account and began posting fake messages, including one that asked readers to “find his friend” with a picture of the popular YouTuber Keemstar. Lavrusik has since recovered his account.
MISINFORMATION BEGAN SPREADING IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SHOOTING
Hoaxers also began circulating fake claims that are made after many shootings, including accusations that comedian Sam Hyde was the shooter. They made a number of other false accusations against various YouTubers, as well as BuzzFeed reporter Jane Lytvynenko, who had been debunking the hoaxes.
Like most shootings, this attack has predictably drawn claims that it was a “false flag” operation designed to demonize gun owners. An early report said the shooter was wearing a headscarf, which led to some online speculation — including a tweet from Gateway Pundit reporter Lucian Wintrich — that she might be Muslim. There’s no evidence of this so far.
Notably, we haven’t seen a ton of hoax and conspiracy material getting promoted by platforms like Facebook and Google search, although one video made it into Facebook’s search results. This could obviously change, but it’s still a significant contrast to what happened after February’s shooting in Parkland — when, among other things, a video claiming students were “crisis actors” trended on YouTube.
SILICON VALLEY AND THE YOUTUBE COMMUNITY RESPONDS
In the wake of the attack, major tech companies and executives expressed their condolences to the victims, including YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
Credit: The Verge