The woman who police say opened fire Tuesday at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, Calif., had a grudge against the company, family members told local media, and she appeared to be a prolific user of the video-sharing platform who accused YouTube moderators of suppressing her content.
Police identified the shooter as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, a 39-year-old from San Diego. They said she opened fire with a handgun in a courtyard outside the company’s headquarters, wounding three people before taking her own life.
A woman matching Aghdam’s name and appearance maintained several YouTube channels and a personal website where she published videos about a range of topics, including veganism, animal cruelty and fitness. She also frequently ranted against YouTube, claiming the company discriminated against her and filtered her videos to prevent them from getting views.
“There is no free speech in real world & you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system,” read one post on her site. “There is no equal growth opportunity on YOUTUBE or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!!”
She made similar claims in videos, saying the company was cheating video makers out of money. “Growing on YouTube is not in your hands,” she said. “It all depends on who is controlling your channel.”
The channels, published in English, Farsi and Turkish, each had several thousand subscribers, and some uploads had hundreds of thousands of views. All of them were offline by late Tuesday, with statements saying the channels had been terminated “due to multiple or severe violations” of YouTube’s policies.
San Bruno police said they were investigating a motive for the shooting. “At this time there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that individuals were specifically targeted,” police said in a statement.
Aghdam’s father, Ismail Aghdam, told the Mercury News on Tuesday that his daughter had complained to her family in recent weeks that YouTube was censoring her videos and cutting back her revenue from advertising. “She was angry,” he said.
YouTube users can earn money through advertisements, but the company often “demonetizes” videos that contain content it deems controversial, including profanity, violence or sexually suggestive material. A YouTube representative didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Sometime before the shooting, Aghdam’s family reported that she had been missing since Saturday, and her father warned police she might be going to YouTube because she “hated” the company, according to the Mercury News.
Before dawn Tuesday morning, police in Mountain View, Calif., found a woman of the same name sleeping in her car in a parking lot, a Mountain View Police Department spokesman told The Washington Post in a statement.
“Our officers made contact with the woman after the license plate of her vehicle matched that of a missing person out of Southern California,” the statement read. “The woman confirmed her identity to us and answered subsequent questions. At the conclusion of our discussion, her family was notified that she had been located.”
Google, YouTube’s parent company, is headquartered in Mountain View, which is roughly 30 miles southeast of San Bruno. Aghdam’s car was not near the Google campus, according to police.
Police said Aghdam opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters at about 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, sending terrified employees fleeing. Some took shelter in nearby businesses, while others barricaded themselves in conference rooms. Police said four people were transported to the hospital, three of them suffering from gunshot wounds.
A Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital spokesman said a 36-year-old was in critical condition. Two women were also being treated for injuries, one of them in critical condition, the other in fair condition, a hospital official told The Post. Police found Aghdam dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound while searching the headquarters.
Family members told a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles that she had been making a living off her YouTube videos but that she had vented lately about the company “ruining her life.” Her father told the Mercury News that he didn’t know how Aghdam got a gun. “Maybe she bought one” recently, he told the newspaper. She didn’t appear to have any criminal record, and family members told local media she wasn’t a violent person.
Veganism and animal rights appear to have been longtime concerns for Aghdam. She often posted about vegan cooking and linked to graphic videos showing animals being slaughtered or abused.
In May 2011, she set up a nonprofit in California called Peace Thunder whose goal was to “educate people about animal cruelty, environmental pollution and how to make healthy choices and save the world and animals from extinction,” according to state public records. She dissolved the organization later that year, records show.
Aghdam’s most recent home address on record was a house in Menifee, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles. Her brother, Shahran Aghdam, told the Mercury News Tuesday that the family came to California from Iran in 1996 and that his sister had recently moved in with her grandmother in San Diego.
Though police identified Nasim Aghdam as a 39-year-old, her brother told the Mercury News that Wednesday would have been her 38th birthday.
“She chose the day to die the day she came,” he said.
Hayley Tsukayama contributed to this report.
More from Morning Mix: