Before the Buffalo shooting began, the suspect invited others to review the plans on Discord.
About 30 minutes before initiating what investigators said was a long-planned massacre at a Buffalo supermarket, Payton S. Gendron invited a small group of people to join an online chat room.
Until that time, the room’s messages on the Discord chat app were only visible to Mr. Gendron, who for months had uploaded numerous photos of himself, often posing with his equipment and the weapon officials say they used to carry out the shooting, even sharing hand-drawn maps of Tops’ grocery store which he openly said he planned to attack.
None of the people he invited to review his writings seem to have alerted the police, and the massacre took place as Mr. Gendron envisioned.
A collection of his Discord messages circulated online over the weekend, and details of those recordings were made public on Monday. But it was not previously known that other users had joined the Discord chat room, known as the server, 30 minutes before he carried out the attack.
In a statement, a Discord spokeswoman expressed sympathy for the victims of the shooting and said “hate has no place on Discord.”
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“What we know at this time is that a private, invite-only server has been created by the suspect to serve as his personal chat log,” the statement said. “About 30 minutes before the attack, however, a small group of people were invited and joined the server. Prior to this, our records indicate that no one else has seen the log chat log on this private server.
Mr. Gendron appeared to be trying to build an audience in the moments leading up to the shooting by pushing his Discord link to web forums where like-minded users congregated. At one point he appeared to be planning to stream the May 14 attack – for which he was charged with the murder of 10 people – directly to his chat room. We don’t know if he did.
In the first pages of the compendium he posted online, Mr. Gendron was clear about his objective: he wanted to radicalize others and called on his supporters to join him in mounting similar attacks.
Discord chat logs complement a nearly 200-page racist screed Mr. Gendron posted before the attack. This widely shared document was clearly aimed at an audience less versed in slang and the references he had picked up from 4chan, Reddit, and other websites he hung out on. In Discord, Mr. Gendron revealed much more personal details, often accentuating his thoughts with racist and anti-Semitic memes and sometimes expressing doubts about himself and a desire to kill himself.
But it is also clear that Mr. Gendron was fully aware that the logs he downloaded would be scrutinized by law enforcement and others.
A person who actively encouraged an act of mass shooting could be criminally liable, although the bar for any charges is high, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation.
Throughout the collection, Mr. Gendron makes frequent reference to the work on the Discord transcription, suggesting that the process of posting it online was not as simple as simply uploading it to a server and then uploading it to web forums. .
In March, the month he originally planned to carry out the attack, he mentioned configuring settings on Discord to ensure others could watch a channel without changing anything.
In another channel – general chat – he said other users could type, send images and post emoji reactions, while being unable to delete others’ messages. And on a third channel, he planned to embed the livestream of himself doing the filming, using the Twitch app.
At the beginning of April, he noted that he had to set rules in Discord, to prevent others from deleting anything there.
Discord started life as the chat feature of a little-known video game. Game creator Jason Citron abruptly pivoted in 2015, abandoning gaming and focusing entirely on chat software. In recent years, the platform has exploded in popularity with a predominantly younger user base.
Like many social media platforms, Discord has struggled to balance the ideals of privacy and free speech with combating hate speech and content moderation. Discord said it takes “immediate action” when it encounters violations such as underage users or inappropriate content, responding to reports from users and moderators, and using “advanced tools, machine learning, teams specialized security systems tackling specific situations of abuse and information from experts outside the company.
In the report, posted on the company’s website, Discord said it disabled 2,182 servers and 25,170 individual accounts for violent extremism in the second half of 2021.
John Herman, Kellen Browning and Jesse McKinley contributed report.