A man was arrested this past Sunday after showing up to Google’s Mountain View, Calif. headquarters and threatening violence over his belief that YouTube had deleted his account and the single video he had posted to it, BuzzFeed News reported today.
Unfortunately for the man, 33-year-old Kyle Long, it was actually his wife who deleted the account. She then told him it was likely Google’s doing because she feared how he might react. Not only that, but Long had driven all the way from Maine, more than 3,300 miles, on his mission.
Long’s video was apparently some type of get-rich-quick guide, a video his father, Kevin Long, characterized as “rambling” and “bizarre.” According to the father, Long has a history of mental illness and run-ins with the police, stemming his father thinks from a drunk driving accident in his teens that took the life of a close friend. “He came up with this crazy idea to make everyone millionaires,” Kevin Long told BuzzFeed. “She [his wife] told him Google or Facebook must have took it down because you can’t put stupid shit on there.” According to his father, Long thought his video would solve the world’s problems.
Disgruntled customers who demand in-person meetings are common at large tech companies, often resulting in robust security systems. The problem is especially bad for companies that operate large-scale platforms that are then moderated using both algorithms and a complex set of ever-changing policies, as it leads to people who feel personally wronged be automated decisions that often go unnoticed by employees or contractors. What makes this story especially notable, however, is that it’s the second high-profile incident in less than a year in which someone has physically shown up at the company (or this case its parent company’s office) and threatened violence against the company.
Last April, 39-year-old San Diego resident Nasim Aghdam did in fact go to the company’s San Bruno headquarters, where she opened fire. Aghdam, who claimed YouTube had unfairly demonetized and censored her pro-vegan and animal rights videos, injured three people, prior to taking her own life.
The incident had a drastic effect on security at Silicon Valley companies and especially at YouTube. As a result of the shooting, YouTube increased security at its offices worldwide, but the contentious relationship between the platform and its creators has nonetheless only intensified in the year since. YouTubers are almost constantly expressing frustration at the company’s demonetization methods, copyright system, and other moderation and algorithmic recommendation tools that some say threaten their livelihoods. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thankfully, Long did not bring any firearms with him to Google, but he did bring three baseball bats in his car, which police later found after apprehending him on campus. According to the Mountain View police, which spoke with BuzFeed, Long had made “made general threats of violence towards unknown people if the meeting regarding his YouTube channel didn’t go as he wanted it to.” The police were apparently keeping an eye out for Long after his cross-country trip was reported to law enforcement in his hometown of Waterville, Maine.
“All he wanted was to get it back online,” Kevin Long said of his son. “Something is wrong with him.”