On Tuesday, April 3, a 39-year-old woman entered YouTube’s main office just south of San Francisco and opened fire.
Armed with a handgun, Nasim Aghdam wounded three people before taking her own life. The woman was reportedly concerned about the site suppressing her videos. They contained sentiments about the vegan lifestyle, cruelty against animals, as well as exercise.
Authorities say they don’t believe the woman targeted anyone in particular during the shooting. While the woman’s father says he alerted police she may be heading to YouTube’s offices, police have disputed this statement and claimed no warning was given to them.
She was able to access the building through a parking garage, and reportedly had an ongoing dispute with the company. Controversy reportedly arose because the woman disagreed with the company’s filtering policies, claiming they were trying to hold back certain content creators and saying channel growth could only occur with the site’s approval.
YouTube went through major changes during the “Ad-pocalypse” of 2017. Advertisers recoiled at the lack of oversight regarding where their promotions were placed. Radical left-wing and right-wing political videos, extreme religious content, sexual content, and even content dubbed violent or hate-based could all get ads prior to the system’s overhaul.
The site made changes, but these weren’t exactly well-received. Tighter control over the ad and partner programs left some creators feeling blacklisted and others losing what was their primary source of income over the change. The issue even spilled into courtrooms, where the site was victorious.
Aghdam was reportedly furious YouTube stopped allowing her to monetize videos, and her father reported her missing after she didn’t answer her phone for two days. She was found sleeping about 30 miles from the company’s headquarters in a car around 2 a.m., just hours before the attack, but she was let go after refusing to answer questions when police determined she wasn’t a threat.
Two of the victims were released from emergency care on Wednesday while a third was upgraded from critical to serious condition.
The woman’s motivation appears to be solely with the site’s policies regarding monetization, and not related to their decision to remove gun-related content following the recent shooting at a Florida high school.
The Florida shooting gained national exposure for many reasons, with some calling for more government involvement in the lives of peaceful gunowners while others claimed failures at the federal and state level allowed the situation to happen. While federal agencies were reportedly warned about the Florida shooter ahead of time and failed to act, a responding (armed) officer hid outside instead of engaging the shooter.
This may be one reason the police in the case of the YouTube shooting remain adamant they weren’t warned ahead of time – failure to act, especially after encountering the woman just hours before, would continue to paint law enforcement as irresponsible and incapable of protecting citizens.
It was also reported the woman legally owned the handgun she used to commit the attack and visited a shooting range earlier.