Uvalde Parents Accuse Meta, ‘Call of Duty’ of Grooming Shooter in Lawsuit

Uvalde Parents Accuse Meta, ‘Call of Duty’ of Grooming Shooter in Lawsuit

Reggie Daniels pays his respects a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on June 9, 2022. (Eric Gay, File/AP Photo)

Caden Pearson

Caden Pearson

5/25/2024

Updated: 5/26/2024

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Uvalde parents filed lawsuits on Friday against Meta and Activision alleging the companies groomed the teenage gunman responsible for the 2022 school massacre.
In two lawsuits, filed in California and Texas, the group of 19 parents says that Meta’s Instagram app and Activision’s Call of Duty first-person shooter game, together with gunmaker Daniel Defense, have “groomed a generation of young men who are socially vulnerable, insecure about their masculinity, and eager to show strength and assert dominance.”
“To put a finer point on it: Defendants are chewing up alienated teenage boys and spitting out mass shooters,” the lawsuit states.
On the second anniversary of the tragedy, the parents claim that the shooter was influenced by content from Instagram and Call of Duty.
“There is a direct line between the conduct of these companies and the Uvalde shooting,” attorney Josh Koskoff said in a statement to media outlets. “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.”
On May 24, 2022, the gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. The police response, which involved a delay of over 90 minutes before officers confronted the shooter, received widespread criticism.

Instagram’s ‘Flimsy’ Rules

The parents accuse Meta of exposing the teen gunman to violent content on Instagram and failing to enforce “flimsy” advertising standards that ban paid firearm marketing to minors but allow “organic posts.”
Meta’s firearms advertising policy prohibits paid ads that “promote the sale or use of weapons, weapon modification accessories, ammunition or explosives.” However, ads can promote a number of firearm-related topics. These include information on weapons, training, safety, and the Second Amendment, and more.
The lawsuit claims that gunmakers bypass these rules by making organic posts to their own account and using influencers to sell their products.
The parents assert that the companies inundate boys with “content that promotes crime, exalts the lone gunman, exploits tropes of hypermasculinity and revenge, and directs them where to buy their Call of Duty-tested weapon of choice.”
The shooter allegedly opened an online account with Daniel Defense on April 23 weeks before turning 18, and purchased the rifle 23 minutes after midnight on his birthday, according to the lawsuit.
The attorney for the families said Daniel Defense allegedly used Instagram to aggressively market its products, depicting combat scenarios and promoting firearm use.
The parents call Daniel Defense’s marketing and sales strategy “contemptible, reckless, and at times unlawful.” But they say Instagram shares the blame for helping the company “target” teenagers.
“It is the defendants who gave Daniel Defense a direct line into children’s homes and heads; who wrote a playbook for how to peddle firearms while circumventing parents and the law; who created a simulation with real-life weapons and applauded children for refining their ability to kill,” the lawsuit states.

‘Call of Duty’ a ‘Simulation, Not a Game’

According to the lawsuit, the shooter played Call of Duty since he was 15 and had more recently played the “Modern Warfare” offshoot that allowed him to practice with the same model of rifle he later used in the attack.
According to the parents, Call of Duty goes beyond mere entertainment, functioning instead as a sophisticated simulation “training” teenagers to become gunmen. The game’s “vividly realistic and addicting theater of violence” and detailed simulation of firearms purportedly teach players to aim, reload, and fire with precision, mimicking real-life counterparts.
“Call of Duty is a simulation, not a game,” the lawsuit states.

Industry Defends Video Games

In a statement to The Epoch Times, Activision expressed condolences to the families and communities impacted by the “senseless act of violence” but defended video games.
“Millions of people around the world enjoy video games without turning to horrific acts,” the company stated.
Entertainment Software Association, a video game industry trade group, also disputed the link between video games and real-world violence in a statement to The Epoch Times, calling the accusations “baseless.”
Purporting a causal link between video games and real-world violence detracts from the “root issues” in such tragedies, the association stated, adding, “Many other countries have similar rates of video gameplay to the United States, yet do not see similar rates of gun violence.”
ESA pointed The Epoch Times to research showing that violent offenses in foreign markets where similar video games are sold happen far less than in the United States.
Daniel Defense Founder and Chairman Marty Daniel vowed to fight the “baseless” lawsuit, asserting that his company strives to help Americans defend themselves as the U.S. Constitution allows.
Mr. Daniel condemned the actions of the Uvalde shooter as “evil,” but called the lawsuit an affront to the company and its law-abiding customers and staff.
“By attempting to hold our company liable for the criminal actions of an evil person, this lawsuit, like the ones filed before it, is yet another attempt to subvert [Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act] and put firearms manufacturers out of business,” he said in a statement.
The Epoch Times contacted Meta for comment.
Additionally, some of the families involved in the lawsuit are also part of a $500 million lawsuit against Texas state police officials over the handling of the shooting response. Another lawsuit filed in December 2022 by different plaintiffs seeks at least $27 billion in damages from local and state police, the city, and other entities.
Community members in Uvalde marked the anniversary with a vigil, bell ringing, and butterfly release. President Joe Biden issued a letter to the community, offering prayers and condolences to those affected.
The lawsuits highlight ongoing concerns about the role of social media and video games in promoting violence and the accountability of companies in preventing such tragedies. The amount of damages sought in the new lawsuits was not immediately clear.
This report was updated with additional information.
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Caden Pearson

Caden Pearson

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Caden Pearson is a reporter covering U.S. and world news.

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