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Gun violence in the US

YouTube shooter was furious about treatment of her animal rights videos and visited a gun range before attack

Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 39, posted videos containing graphic footage of animal abuse, as well as vegan recipes and simple exercises. She became furious after the site stopped running ads on her videos, her father said

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 1:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 2:40am

An Iranian-born woman who blogged about veganism and warned that the planet was “full of injustice and disease” had accused YouTube of suppressing her videos before she opened fire at the company’s California headquarters on Tuesday, wounding three and killing herself.

Authorities said that the shooter, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 39, visited a gun range before she entered a courtyard Tuesday at YouTube's main offices in San Bruno, south of San Francisco, pulled out a handgun and fired several rounds.

In a series of Persian and English-language online postings, Aghdam - an animal rights activist who posted vegan recipes on the site - had railed against YouTube, the video-sharing site owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google. 

In some posts, she speaks about herself in heroic terms for surviving in a hostile world. Other pages are adorned with pictures of Aghdam scowling and wearing jewellery of her own design.

“I think I am doing a great job,” she wrote in Persian on her Instagram account. “I have never fallen in love and have never got married.

“I have no physical and psychological diseases. But I live on a planet that is full of injustice and diseases.”

In an interview with The Mercury News, her father said that she had been infuriated by the site’s decision to remove adverts - or “de-monetise” - her videos, some of which included graphic images of animal abuse.

In an English-language video posted to her YouTube account before the channel was deleted on Tuesday, Aghdam said, “I am being discriminated. I am being filtered on YouTube. I am not the only one.”

Woman with gun at YouTube offices kills herself

And in an Instagram post she wrote: “All my youtube channels got filtered by youtube so my videos hardly get views and it is called ‘merely relegation’ ...

“This is the peaceful tactic used on the internet to censor and suppress people who speak the truth and are not good for the financial, political … gains of the system and big businesses.

“I recently got filtered on instagram too and maybe its related to youtube and youtube staff asked instagram to filter me here too!!?”

Also on Wednesday, two women wounded by the shooter were released from a hospital.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital said on Wednesday that the third victim, a 36-year-old man, remains hospitalised in serious condition. His condition was upgraded from critical when he was brought in Tuesday.

A 32-year-old woman was brought to the hospital in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman was taken there in fair condition on Tuesday.

Police on Wednesday were focused on Aghdam’s anger at YouTube as a likely motive. The people she shot with a handgun seemed to have been chosen at random from the crowd at the company’s outdoor plaza in San Bruno, they said.

“Obviously she was upset with some of the practises or policies that the company had employed,” San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said on Wednesday.

The shooting came in the midst of an intense phase of a long-running debate on gun rights in the United States, following the killing of 17 students and educators at a Florida high school. 

While mass shootings have become a regular occurrence in the United States, they are rarely carried out by women.

Californian media reported that Aghdam’s family had warned authorities that she might target YouTube before the shooting. 

The San Jose Mercury News quoted her father, Ismail Aghdam, as saying he had told police that his daughter, who lived in San Diego, might go to YouTube’s headquarters because she “hated” the company.

Her family in southern California recently reported her missing because she had not been answering her phone for two days, police said.

At one point on Tuesday, Mountain View, California, police found her sleeping in her car and called her family to say everything was under control, hours before she walked onto the company grounds and opened fire.

A survivor of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Parkland, Florida, weighed in on the YouTube incident on Wednesday.

“The YouTube HQ shooting is proof that this is NOT just schools,” Jaclyn Corin said on Twitter Wednesday. “Our country has a GUN problem. End of story.”

Gun rights advocates have argued that more armed guards and citizens could prevent mass shootings.

YouTube has long faced complaints about alleged censorship on its site, and says it tries to balance its mission of fostering free speech while still providing an appropriate and lawful environment for users.

In some cases involving videos with sensitive content, YouTube has allowed the videos to stay online but cut off the ability for their publishers to share in advertising revenue.

Criticisms from video makers that YouTube is too restrictive about which users can participate in revenue sharing swelled last year as the company imposed new restrictions.

With additional reporting from Associated Press