“They can hide behind different accounts and that opens up a level of freedom.”By Andrea Alvarez

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – Tampa Bay cybersecurity experts are weighing in amid an investigation into social media platforms. New York investigators are looking into social media platforms used by the suspect following the Buffalo, N.Y. mass shooting.

Recent studies show a rise in mass shootings, especially as it ties into social media. Local experts say there’s more to it.

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“As far as importance in their life, it’s definitely grown,” said Sharon Moran, a cybersecurity expert who has been teaching in the field for more than 3 decades at Hillsborough Community College.

Investigators are dissecting social media roles in gun violence following the buffalo shooting where ten people were killed.

Police are labeling it a domestic terrorism act by a white supremacist after the shooter livestreamed and reportedly dropped hints in a private chat on social media before allegedly committing the crime.

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“If you look back 15 years ago, how they use it for platforms change. Mostly I see them now in Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok,” explained Moran. She says social media can also offer a sense of illusion. “They can hide behind different accounts and that opens up a level of freedom.”

The FBI’s most recent data shows that hate crimes are at their highest level in over a decade. By the end of 2020, there were 611 mass shootings, and by the end of 2021, 693, according to the gun violence archive.

A North Carolina study suggests there’s a pattern between viewing similar violence on social media and an increase in these crimes.

“I mean, he’s isolated, he’s in the dark web, he’s radicalized, he brings all those behaviors that are not normal over into real life action.” But Moran says what unfolded in Buffalo doesn’t represent all teens. “A person like him may not have had the platform, for one, to get radicalized and two, feel empowered to go out and act upon that.”

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Fore more on the cybersecurity program at Hillsborough Community College, click here.