(WSYR-TV)– As President Biden paid his respects to the 10 people who lost their lives in a mass shooting Saturday in Buffalo, he wasn’t afraid to label the senseless attack ‘domestic terrorism.’ 

Corri Zoli, a Syracuse University faculty member and domestic terrorism expert, said the distinction between labeling an extremist act such as this one ‘domestic terrorism’ versus ‘mass shooting’ is a difficult one to make.

“One of the ways that we distinguish is if there’s an ideological motive that’s informing the act of violence… in this case, it looks like there’s ethnic, racial motivations and some anti-religious motivations,”

Corri Zoli, Syracuse University Faculty

While Zoli said she’ll wait until the investigation is over to label Saturday’s attack, she recognizes these extremist acts against our own people are on the rise. Zoli credits political polarization and social media. 

“Ideologies that get disseminated through either telegram or Twitter or Facebook or Tik Tok, you know these venues I mean they inspire, they purposely and deliberately inspire,” she said.  

The Buffalo shooter used social media apps like Discord and Twitch to lay out his plans for others to read and live stream the attack.

“Social media can be a force multiplier for disseminating these extremist ideologies to make them look cool, to make them look like a way in which, especially alienated or marginalized folks, can belong,”

Corri Zoli, Syracuse University Faculty

So how do we put an end to it? Zoli said there isn’t one easy fix but believes community members must pay attention to early warning signs. These include a person making threats or statements about violence to family members, school authorities, or law enforcement. Zoli said sometimes these people alienate themselves or surround themselves with people who share extremist ideologies. Signs that everyone must look out for, not just law enforcement.