In the wake of a livestreamed, racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May, the New York attorney general has called upon state lawmakers to crack down on tech companies who allow their platforms to be used to broadcast violence.

Attorney General Letitia James this week released a 49-page report asking lawmakers to make it illegal for people to post or re-share videos of killings. She also asked them to make companies civilly liable when their platforms are used to broadcast violence.

But experts in radicalization and digital technology say those proposals will be difficult to enforce. They warn against making companies police all the content on their sites, and urge lawmakers to find other ways to track extremist ideology and hate speech.

Harold Feld, the senior vice president at the digital advocacy group Public Knowledge said he doubts James’s proposed reforms would tackle the problem of online extremism and violence.

“When these sorts of horrible tragedies occur, there is a natural desire to say, ‘Well, let's just stop the bad thing,’” said Feld. “The world is somewhat more complicated than that.”

James blamed online platforms for radicalizing the accused Buffalo gunman, and said in a statement that livestreaming platforms, such as 4chan and Twitch, “were weaponized to publicize and encourage copycat violent attacks.” James’ inquiry was conducted at the request of Gov. Kathy Hochul, who endorsed her recommendations.

“For too long, hate and division have been spreading rampant on online platforms – and as we saw in my hometown of Buffalo, the consequences are devastating,” Hochul said in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

Ten people were killed and three others were injured in the Buffalo shooting. All but two of the victims were Black. The alleged Buffalo shooter, 19-year-old Payton Gendron, has been held without bail since the attack. He faces a 27-count indictment, including 10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death. Federal officials have accused Gendron, who has pleaded not guilty, of targeting a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood because he subscribed to racist ideology that Black people are “eliminating the white race.”

James’ report concluded that a constellation of websites played a role in Gendron’s path to violence, including 4chan, Reddit and Discord, and that preventing future acts of racist hate requires further regulating those sites, as well as Twitch, a site popular with gamers that livestreamed the first two minutes of the attack.

“The Buffalo shooter was galvanized by his belief that others would be watching him commit violence in real-time,” said James in her report. “Livestreaming has become a tool of mass shooters to instantaneously publicize their crimes, further terrorizing the public and the communities targeted by the shooter. Livestreaming is also used by shooters as a mechanism to incite and solicit additional violent acts.”

James said restrictions on livestreaming should include “verification requirements and tape delays — tailored to identify first-person violence before it can be widely disseminated.”

She also called for Congress, which has long been at loggerheads over internet reforms, to revise Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which shields internet platforms from liability for content posted on their sites by third parties. Under her proposal, online platforms would be required to take “reasonable steps to prevent unlawful violent criminal content.”

New York’s efforts follow new measures in California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law last month requiring tech companies to regularly disclose their content moderation guidelines regarding hate speech and extremism.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said finding the line between allowing free speech and instigating violence can be tricky.

“Big states like New York and California can really influence certain enforcement,” he said, “so we have to be careful to prevent unintended consequences.”

Feld said there are also practical reasons why it’s unreasonable to ask companies to police all the content on their sites. Deciding what content crosses a line takes real people to work as online monitors – an expensive proposition for many companies. The work is often emotionally draining, said Feld, necessitating “psychological support” for employees, “because the stuff they’re reviewing is pretty awful stuff.”

He argued that instead of focusing on online acts of violence, lawmakers should find ways to identify “red flags” in the days and months before violence occurs.

“It's not like he woke up one morning and suddenly decided to do this,” said Feld, referring to Gendron.

In that specific case, state law enforcement officials were notified that Gendron made “alarming comments threatening to shoot up graduation-related events” during his senior year of high school, according to the Washington Post. He even underwent a mental health examination, but the episode failed to generate an investigation.

Two days before the attack, Gendron reportedly posted a 180-page manifesto that contained numerous antisemitic passages and references to the Great Replacement Theory, a racist conspiracy that white people are being replaced by immigrants and non-white people, as well as scientifically debunked arguments that non-white people are less intelligent than white people. The manifesto also cited an earlier episode of racist hate: the shooting deaths of 51 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the London-based Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, said that given how ingrained white supremacy is in society, lawmakers have to come up with solutions that go beyond policing digital platforms.

“Social media, internet algorithms and so on are not the underlying cause of the remarkable rise in right-wing terrorism that we have witnessed in the last 25 years,” said Potok. “The fundamental cause for the rise of the radical right is a massive backlash against major demographic, cultural and economic changes in America and other Western societies. Until we understand that, we will not make much progress in stanching the explosive growth of the radical right.”