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YouTube shooter's motive? She was 'upset' at the site's policies

Police say the woman who shot three people and killed herself at YouTube's headquarters in San Bruno, California, was upset at the streaming giant's policies and practices.

Police officers stand on a balcony behind a large bush that surrounds a YouTube sign

Police officers stand by in front of the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, Tuesday. 

Getty Images

San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said Wednesday that the woman who shot three people and killed herself at YouTube's headquarters on Tuesday was motivated by the video streaming giant's policies and practices. 

Prior to police identifying her motive, the suspect -- Nasim Najafi Aghdam -- reportedly had a number of YouTube accounts and a website where she allegedly voiced concerns about YouTube and its monetization policies. Police say Aghdam shot three people at YouTube's headquarters Tuesday before turning the gun on herself. She was found dead inside YouTube's offices after police and other law enforcement officials swarmed the campus in the Silicon Valley town. 

Separately on Wednesday, police in nearby Mountain View, California, said Aghdam's father had contacted them to explain that she made a series of videos about veganism for her channel on YouTube and "that the company had recently done something to her videos that had caused her to become upset," according to a press statement. Google, YouTube's parent company, is based in Mountain View. 

Mountain View police phoned Aghdam's family and spoke to her father and brother very early Tuesday morning after they found her sleeping in her car there, police said. She had been reported missing on Saturday. In a follow-up call with Mountain View police about an hour later, Aghdam's father reportedly said that she may have been near Google's campus because of her issues with her YouTube channel.

For the last year and a half, YouTube has been buffeted by backlash from both its advertisers and the creators who upload -- and sometimes earn their livelihoods from -- videos on the service. Last spring, an outcry about commercials running next to offensive videos sparked an advertiser boycott. When YouTube responded by more aggressively pulling ads off sensitive clips, it ended up outraging people who uploaded videos that seemed fine but lost moneymaking power -- an event they dubbed "Adpocalypse." 

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Since then, YouTube has continued to struggle with how to draw the line between advertising-safe content and videos that need to be demonetized, an especially vexing problem given the service's immense scale. More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and the site is accessible in 76 different languages across the globe. 

At a press conference Wednesday morning, Barberini released other new details about the crime, including that the suspect had visited a gun range Tuesday morning before she went to YouTube's campus. She parked her vehicle to the rear of a business near to the headquarters and police believe she entered YouTube's campus through a parking garage. 

Three victims -- a 32-year-old woman, a 27-year-old woman and a 36-year-old man -- were transported to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital with non-fatal gunshot wounds. Barberini provided no new information about them. 

Barberini reiterated that police know of no connection between the shooter and her victims. They also haven't confirmed whether the victims were YouTube employees. He said only that the victims "were all on the campus" of YouTube.

First published on April 4 at 10:05 a.m. PT.
Update at 10:34 a.m. PT: Adds background about YouTube policies and details from Mountain View police.

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