By: Mike DeVito
On Tuesday April 3, 2018 around 1PM a lone woman, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, opened fire on YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California with a 9mm Smith and Wesson handgun before turning the gun on herself and committing suicide. Three people were sent to the hospital due to injuries they sustained. As of now two have already been discharged, but the third remains in critical condition.
What would propel Aghdam to commit such an act? According to CNN she was a YouTuber who was frustrated with some of the websites policies and practices, primarily related to censorship and revenue. She ran four channels in three various languages, Turkish, Farsi (Persian), and English; her content included art, vegan lifestyle, and fitness. She claimed that YouTube only allowed the channels they liked to become big and profitable and filtered her channels using age restrictions to keep them from growing.
According to CBS News and The New Yorker, in January, YouTube changed their monetization and advertising policies after criticism that some of the content on the website should be removed for being sexually explicit, portraying violence, and child abuse. Only channels with a minimum of one thousand subscribers and four thousand “watch hours” per month are now eligible for ad revenue. These changes in policy resulted in monetized YouTubers losing between 20-50 percent of income from the website. This apparently was the main reason for Aghdam to lash out against the company the way she did. The New Yorker quotes her saying, “people like me aren’t good for big business,” and “YouTube is ruining my life.”
In addition, CNN also states that there were different reports on Aghdam’s final hours. Her brother stated she disappeared and stopped answering her phone the weekend before the shooting. Aghdam was found by the Mountain View Police sitting in her car in an empty lot at 1:40 AM the Tuesday of the shooting. This worried her brother due to Mountain View’s close proximity to YouTube, warning authorities, “She went all the way from San Diego to Mountain View, she might do something.” Even with the warning the police let her go due to her calm demeanor and stated that she did not once mention anything related to YouTube during their twenty-minute interaction. This differs from what the Mountain View Police department told the press, saying, “At no point did her father or brother mention anything about potential acts of violence or a possibility of Aghdam lashing out as a result of her issues with her (YouTube) videos.”
As of right now all that is known about Aghdam’s motives are from what she told family and shared in her videos. Her suicide makes it hard to truly understand what was going through her mind as she pulled the trigger on the innocent people at work. This act of violence has resulted in an outpour of condolences on twitter from all over the tech industry including the CEOs of Apple, Google, YouTube, and Amazon. As well as from President Trump, thanking law enforcement and first responders for their swift response to the situation. The other result of the shooting was Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, and Box CEO Aaron Levie calling for increasingly strict gun control legislation to make it so tragedies like this can stop happening.