Lawsuit alleges Activision, Meta bear responsibility for Uvalde school shooting

The attorney famous for successfully winning a settlement for Sandy Hook school shooting victims’ families has brought a new pair of lawsuits in relation to the deadly 2022 Uvalde shooting at Robb Elementary : this time aimed at rifle manufacturer Daniel Defense), Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, and Call of Duty publisher Activision.

Legal documents reviewed by the Washington Post allege that Activision, Meta, and Daniel Defense all bear responsibility for radicalizing a “socially vulnerable” demographic by glorifying violence and making weaponry easily accessible.

In terms of the Call of Duty publisher’s alleged responsibility, the lawsuits seek to connect the promotion of real-world weaponry to “vulnerable” young men who are “insecure about their masculinity, often bullied, eager to show strength and assert dominance.”

According to the Post, this may be the very first case to connect an “aggressive” firearm marketing strategy, both on social media and in the Call of Duty series, to the events of a specific shooting.

“Over the last 15 years, two of America’s largest technology companies—defendants Activision and Meta—have partnered with the firearms industry in a scheme that makes the Joe Camel campaign look laughably harmless, even quaint,” reads the complaint.

The lawsuits accuse Activision and Meta of being complicit in the actions of the shooter, Salvador Ramos, essentially by exposing him to the weapon (via the game), marketing it to him (via social media), and making it easy for him to buy an automatic rifle (also via social media).

It’s worth noting that the lawsuits also seek accountability from the officers who responded to the incident, where personnel waited over an hour to act against Ramos, resulting in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

The suits seek to “close the accountability gap” While some of the rhetoric in the suits echoes 1990s attempts to legislate violence in video games , there is an angle here worth noting: the idea that targeted marketing among social media platforms is partially to blame for the situation.

The suits reportedly paint a detailed picture of Daniel Defense’s aggressive marketing, using Facebook and Instagram to “bombard” Ramos with material glorifying assault rifles after he downloaded a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game in November 2021.

The suits also take aim at lax or inconsistent policies on Meta’s part regarding firearm sales. All in all, they read as an attempt to place blame across all of the platforms allegedly promoting gun violence and the firearm company in question, alongside the bungled police response to the event.

At this time, we don’t know what the implications will be for Activision Blizzard (or Microsoft, which owns the publisher as of the historic merger late last year ).

About the Author(s)

Editor-in-Chief, GameDeveloper.com

Danielle is the editor-in-chief of Game Developer, with previous editorial posts at Fanbyte, VICE, and Polygon. She’s also a lecturer in game design at the Berklee College of Music, and a hobbyist game developer in her spare time.

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