Uvalde Shooting Victims’ Families sue Activision, Meta Over Gun Advertising

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Key Takeaways

  • The families of Uvalde shooting victims have sued Activision and Meta for allegedly colluding on gun ads.
  • Meta is accused of enabling gun ads, while Activision is said to have promoted guns with Call of Duty.
  • Activision has denied the claims.

The families of victims in the Uvalde, Texas mass shooting have sued Meta and Call of Duty publisher Activision over allegations they “collaborated” with gun manufacturers to advertise their weapons.

As TechCrunch explained, the lawsuit accused Meta of intentionally crafting “flimsy, easily circumvented rules” on Instagram that were meant to bar firearms ads, but effectively enabled them. Ads from Daniel Defense, the maker of the AR-based DDM4 V7 rifle used in the Uvalde shooting, purportedly targeted the attacker.

Activision, meanwhile, allegedly participated in a “cunning form of marketing” for the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle through the Call of Duty game series. It supposedly fostered a young audience for the weapon. The Uvalde shooter was said to be a fan of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs likened the tech companies’ involvement with the gun industry to RJ Reynolds’ Joe Camel ad campaign and other claimed efforts to market cigarettes to teens. That strategy was “laughably harmless” compared to the gun advertising, according to the suit.

We’ve asked Meta for comment. Activision in a statement said it expressed “deepest sympathies” to the victims’ families, but maintained that research showed “no causal link” between video games and gun-related violence.

Whether or not the lawsuit succeeds isn’t clear. Stanford University researchers recently summarized dozens of studies on games and guns, and determined that there was no evidence of a link between playing violent games and real-life shootings. Prosecuting attorneys would also have to show that Meta was happy to allow gun ads, rather than showing a mistake.

It’s also uncertain that Activision was negligent. Many game developers include real weapons in their titles for the sake of authenticity, and the AR-15 itself doesn’t feature in the revived Modern Warfare releases. Instead, it’s the related military-issue M4 that makes an appearance.

The concern, however, is that the very presence of real guns in an entertainment product serves as advertising by making them seem fun. Moreover, Call of Duty and other game franchises sometimes encourage players to buy gun skins and other flair to personalize their weapons. In theory, the person behind the Uvalde shooting might have seen Modern Warfare as a celebration of gun culture.