United States

Uvalde Victim’s Families Accuse Instagram, Call Of Duty, And Gun Maker Of Enabling Massacre

Instagram has been sued by the families of children killed in the 2022 Uvalde school shooting, accusing three major companies: Meta, Activision, and Daniel Defense, of enabling the tragedy.

Uvalde shooting memorial Photo: AP

Two years ago, a teenager shot dead 19 children and 2 teachers 19 children and two educators in Uvalde with an AR-15 style rifle. Now,the families of the victims have filed wrongful death lawsuits against three major companies, including Meta (Instagram’s parent company), game maker Activision, and weapons manufacturer Daniel Defense, accusing them of enabling the tragedy.

The suits, filed on the second anniversary of the school shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers, allege that these companies form an "unholy trinity" that worked together to transform alienated teenage boys into mass shooters.

"There is a direct line between the conduct of these companies and the Uvalde shooting," said Josh Koskoff, a partner at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder and an attorney for the families. Koskoff had previously represented families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims in a case against gun manufacturer Remington, resulting in a $73 million settlement in 2022.

The latest lawsuits were filed on behalf of 27 plaintiffs in California, where Meta and Activision are headquartered, and Texas, where the alleged misconduct occurred. Complaints describe how the Uvalde shooter, who was killed by police, became obsessed with weapons and purchased an AR-15 manufactured by Daniel Defense just 23 minutes after turning 18.

"Why? Before he was old enough to purchase it, he was targeted and cultivated online by Instagram, Activision, and Daniel Defense," Koskoff said. "This three-headed monster knowingly exposed him to the weapon, conditioned him to see it as a tool to solve his problems, and trained him to use it."

The lawsuit states that the shooter downloaded the latest version of ‘Call of Duty’ in November 2021, but he had been playing the mobile version since he was 15. The suits allege that Activision' is “training and habituating kids to kill”, pointing out that the gun used in the shooting is featured in the game.

It also accuses the shooter of being "courted" by gun companies on Instagram through “explicit, aggressive marketing." Although Meta’s advertising policy prohibits the promotion and sale of weapons, ammunition, or explosives, studies suggest loopholes still allow gun makers to reach users.

An Activision spokesperson called the Uvalde shooting "horrendous and heartbreaking in every way," but added that "millions of people around the world enjoy video games without turning to horrific acts." A trade group for video game makers, the Entertainment Software Association, expressed sorrow over the violence and said it was saddened and outraged by senseless acts of  violence." “At the same time, we discourage baseless accusations linking these tragedies to video gameplay, which detract from efforts to focus on the root issues in question and safeguard against future tragedies,” the group said in a statement. “Many other countries have similar rates of video gameplay to the United States, yet do not see similar rates of gun violence.”

These cases represent some of the most significant legal actions against social media and gaming firms related to mass shootings and could encounter substantial freedom of speech challenges in court. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects tech firms from liability for content hosted on their platforms, though this law is currently under scrutiny in Congress.