Mother Emanuel shooting survivors file lawsuit against META, YouTube

Two survivors of the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church have filed a lawsuit, which claims the convicted killer was influenced to commit his crimes.
Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 5:37 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2023 at 5:38 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Two survivors of the 2015 mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston have filed a lawsuit, which claims the convicted killer was influenced to commit his crimes.

Filed on April 5, the lawsuit alleges some very powerful social media companies radicalized the shooter, Dylann Roof.

Roof killed 9 people during a bible study session on June 17, 2015. Two people who were there that night pretended to be dead to avoid getting shot, according to this new lawsuit. Those two people are named as plaintiffs in the court documents.

Felicia Sanders and her granddaughter, who is unnamed in the suit because she’s a minor, allege that social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube radicalized Dylann Roof through the content the platforms showed him. Sanders laid next to her son Tywanza as he died, the lawsuit states.

The suit alleges Google provided Roof the “initial gateway to hate that YouTube and Facebook further cultivated through shared personal data that captured his information and web history.”

“Weaponizing that information, these Social Media Defendants then use psychologically manipulative formulae to control what users see and steer them toward content that confirms their likes, dislikes and biases,” the lawsuit states.

“The simple fact is the Social Media Defendants’ business models (where the advertisers are the customers and the users are the product) depend on keeping people glued to their screens so these companies can sell advertisements,” the court documents state. “And provocative content best accomplishes this goal. Once the Social Media Defendants learned this through their own internal research, they exploited it heavily and pushed out or ignored anyone along the way who raised moral or ethical questions. Those decisions should not be without consequence.”

The suit also lists several Russian defendants claiming the Russian government was working to incite a race war in the U.S. By selling advertisements to these Russian defendants, the social media companies, specifically Facebook’s parent company META, should have known that those advertisement could potentially influence and radicalize susceptible users like Dylann Roof.

A similar lawsuit was filed Nov. 2022 by the daughter and widow of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of nine Black parishioners killed in the racially motivated attack during a bible study.