The massacre of 19 students and two teachers in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has reopened the wounds of a country that, according to experts, has always been torn between the protection of the Second Amendment, which guarantees the possession of weapons, and that of civil liberties, especially in social networks. At the moment, there are no signs of a solution. Salvador Ramos, the person responsible for the shooting at Robb Elementary School last Tuesday, stormed the school with an AR-15 assault rifle, also leaving 17 injured. It is the second worst school massacre in US history.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a news conference that the 18-year-old Ramos had issued warnings on social media that he was going to commit the massacre at the school. Ramos was not afraid of being exposed or captured. Two experts consulted by LA RAZÓN indicated that arms control in the United States is an issue that has always raised blisters, above all because so many the protection of civil liberties such as the possession of weapons find an echo in broad sectors of society. And social networks only reflect the deep ideological and cultural divisions of the country.
“It is extremely difficult for social networks to serve as ‘police’ of all the real-time activities… we have an extraordinary situation in this country where the right and the left are diametrically opposed on the issue of freedom of expression,” he said Stephen Balkam CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, which advocates for the protection of minors on social media.
“For what I call First Amendment absolutist believers, almost every expression is valid in social networks and what must be done is to allow freedom of expression, not restrict it. But when there are situations where violence is incited, then we face a very serious problem,” explained Balkam, who cited the assault on the Capitol last January, encouraged by then-President Donald Trump, as an example.
Social media platforms “definitely have to do more, but Where do we draw the line in this country, if we are so divided?”, added Balkam, after assuring that 90% of Americans favor at least a greater background check of gun buyers.
For his part, José Blanco, is CDO of La Conversa Data, a consulting company on the use of digital networks, highlights the difficulty of monitoring private messages in applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, iMessage or Facebook Messenger, contrary to the public channels of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch and YouTube, among others. These apps, according to Blanco, have resources to detect dangerous content and remove it if necessary.
“Being public spaces, most of these systems have enabled functions so that we, the community of users, are the ones who report content that should be removed due to the risk” that they pose for individuals and groups, Blanco said.
“I usually report weekly tweets that should never have been published and Twitter usually notifies me that this content does indeed violate the rules of use of its platform… it is a complex matter, but not because of technology but because of possible restrictions on the civil liberties of citizens”, argued the expert.
Shortly before the massacre, Ramos sent a message on Facebook announcing that he was going to shoot his grandmother, then he confirmed it in a second message, and in the last he said that his next target was a school. Several months earlier, Ramos sent private messages to more than a dozen people in which he described in great detail different types of weapons and school shootings, police authorities said Friday.
“In ten days… you’ll see”
Last February, during a chat on Instagram, Ramos spoke with his followers about school shootings., and a month later, he twice confirmed his desire to acquire high-caliber weapons. Ramos bought two AR-15 assault rifles and hundreds of bullets legally after turning 18, the age of majority, on May 16.
In an exchange with his supporters at the end of March, Ramos said only that there were “ten more days” and when asked if he was planning a school shooting, he only replied: “no, stop asking silly questions. They’ll see.”
Testimonies from friends or former colleagues give an account of the actions of the suspect in messaging applications and social networks. A young woman from Germany, identified as Cece, told The New York Times that Ramos revealed his plan and the aggression against his grandmother in a text message. A few weeks earlier, Ramos sent her a video of him buying guns on the Yubo app.
The Police are studying Ramos’ footprints on Instagram and other social networks with a magnifying glass as part of an investigation, which has also revealed blunders at the hands of the authorities.
Ramos, who was shot by the police, had no criminal history or mental health historyso authorities had no reason to suspect the impending massacre, according to Governor Abbott.
But the act of violence in Uvalde came just ten days after another supermarket massacre in Buffalo, New York, in which the suspected shooter, Peyton Gendron, like Ramos, also resorted to Snapchat, Instagram, Discord, Twitch and Yubo to share their plans of violence.
The challenge for these platforms is to modernize their content moderation to detect possible acts of violence in timeespecially in those of private messaging and livestream videos popular among the so-called Generation Z, according to experts.
A state law enacted in Texas by Abbott last year – and now before the US Supreme Court – would allow the shooter’s manifesto in New York to be construed as his opinion and therefore free from censorship or override.
As in other past shootings, those in New York and Texas have reactivated a common cycle of reactions, from mourning for the victims to the outrage against legislators who only offer “thoughts and prayers.”
But there is no consensus in Congress to further restrict gun purchases, and according to an analysis by the group “FiveThirtyEight” of school shootings in 2018, the recent massacres will likely increase support for gun control, but only momentarily, until the next shooting.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.