Several lawsuits stemming directly from a 2022 mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York grocery store, which contend that social media platforms actively engage and profit from individuals spreading and consuming hate speech with deadly consequences, can move forward, a judge has ruled.

While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other companies have successfully avoided legal judgments against them over the years when it comes to the consequences of content posted by others on those platforms, a judge in New York thinks she sees a new angle on the issue.

As CNN reports, Erie County Supreme Court Justice Paula Feroleto is allowing suits to move forward that blame Meta, Alphabet, Reddit, and 4chan for helping to radicalize then-18-year-old Payton Gendron to commit the heinous mass shooting he allegedly committed for racist reasons in May 2022.

We learned in the days after the shooting, which took the lives of 10 Black residents of Buffalo who were shopping at a Tops supermarket, that Gendron subscribed to the "white replacement theory" or Great Replacement Theory — the same theory that is all over X to this day, and that Elon Musk sounds very much like he is parroting when he spewed his thoughts on illegal immigration in that Don Lemon interview.

Gendron published a 180-page manifesto spouting his racist and paranoid views, lifting entire sections of it from a manifesto published three years earlier, when Brenton Tarrant killed 50 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, live-streaming his crime on Facebook.

Judge Feroleto said in her decision this week that Facebook, YouTube, 4chan, and Reddit all "profit from the racist, antisemitic, and violent material displayed on their platforms to maximize user engagement." And while the companies may consistently say that they bear no legal responsibility for content posted by third parties, and that they function like "message boards," Feroleto sided with the plaintiffs saying, "plaintiffs contend the defendants’ platforms are more than just message boards. They allege they are sophisticated products designed to be addictive to young users and they specifically directed Gendron to further platforms or postings that indoctrinated him with 'white replacement theory'."

As Reuters reports, the 25 plaintiffs in the lawsuits against each company include "store employees and customers who witnessed the May 14, 2022 shooting, and the son of one of those killed."

The Supreme Court ruled last year, in a case stemming from the ISIS terrorist attack in Paris in 2015, that social media platforms were not responsible for content that radicalizes people toward violence. In that decision, the court ruled that neither Twitter nor YouTube was responsible for content that radicalized the Paris shooters — and that ruling would seem to doom this New York prosecution along the same lines.

The decision effectively upheld Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the 1996 law that social media companies have used for two decades now to shield themselves from liability for the content posted by users.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority in that case, Gonzalez v. Google, saying, "It might be that bad actors like ISIS are able to use platforms like defendants’ for illegal – and sometimes terrible – ends. But the same could be said of cell phones, email, or the internet generally."

Regarding the Buffalo case, YouTube issued a statement saying, "While we disagree with today’s decision and will be appealing, we will continue to work with law enforcement, other platforms, and civil society to share intelligence and best practices."

Reddit also responded, giving CNN this statement: "Hate and violence have no place on Reddit. Our sitewide policies explicitly prohibit content that promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability, as well as content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people. We are constantly evaluating ways to improve our detection and removal of this content, including through enhanced image-hashing systems, and we will continue to review the communities on our platform to ensure they are upholding our rules."

Previously: Supreme Court Hands Big Tech a Big Win In Content Moderation Cases

Top image: Payton Gendron arrives for a hearing at the Erie County Courthouse on May 19, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. Gendron is accused of killing 10 people and wounding another 3 during a shooting at a Tops supermarket on May 14 in Buffalo. The attack was believed to be motivated by racial hatred. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)