Police were called to YouTube’s San Bruno, California headquarters on April 3, 2018, in response to an active shooter. Three people were injured as the shooter, identified as 39-year-old Nasim Najafi Aghdam, fired indiscriminately before turning the gun on herself and taking her own life.
According to a number of reports, Aghdam had been upset with YouTube, convinced that the company was discriminating against the Iranian native, after witnessing a steady decline in her advertisement revenue. However, Aghdam was just one of many users who have been impacted by YouTube’s change in policies regarding monetization and new limitations on what content will be allowed to be uploaded to the platform. These changes have caused some of YouTube’s more controversial creators to flee to alternative video sharing platforms, including a gun enthusiast channel that made the unusual move to the pornographic website PornHub.
While YouTube’s changes in their community guidelines have stirred outrage within certain segments of the community; most notably horror, true crime, conspiracy, and alt-right channels, Aghdam’s videos did not fall into any of these categories. Instead, Aghdam used her platform to upload quirky exercise videos and to preach veganism and animal rights. Narrated in English, Turkish, and Farsi, Aghdam was able to grow a cult following of Middle Eastern viewers. In spite of her thousands of social media followers, even Aghdam’s relatively benign videos suffered after YouTube’s decision to restructure their advertisement and monetization policies last December.
As other content creators began seeking out other means to monetize their channels, Aghdam grew increasingly frustrated with restrictions placed on her videos and her inability to host ads on some of her content. Convinced certain YouTube employees were out to censor her for being an outspoken vegan, according to her cached website, when Aghdam went missing on April 2, 2018, her family warned that Aghdam had been angry with YouTube and suggested that “she might do something” after learning that Aghdam had been sleeping in her car in the Bay Area.
Police were able to locate Aghdam and spoke with the woman. According to the Washington Post, Mountainview Police stated that they had spoken with both Aghdam’s father and brother but, “At no point during that conversation did either Aghdam’s father or brother make any statements regarding the woman’s potential threat to, or a possible attack on, the YouTube campus.” They further stated that an hour after speaking with Aghdam’s family they called back to inform police that Aghdam had growing hostilities towards YouTube and suspected that it may have motivated the woman to suddenly move to the Bay Area from her home in San Diego, however, never suggested that the woman may carry out an act of violence or had been in the possession of a weapon.
Authorities say shortly after speaking with the Mountainview Police, Aghdam took to the gun range. She then drove to YouTube headquarters where she was able to breach company security, enter into a courtyard on the company’s property, and opened fire as numerous employees were having lunch. In addition to three individuals who received direct injuries from the shooting, another victim suffered an ankle injury while fleeing to a nearby business. When police arrived on the scene Aghdam was dead.
Google, YouTube’s parent company, took to Twitter shortly after the shooting in order to provide updates on the situation. “The officers responding to the scene were exceptional,” Google said in an official statement, “They entered our building to protect the lives of our employees. There were numerous acts of heroism both from the first responders, particularly the San Bruno PD, and from employees. Some employees went back to the building with officers to give them access to our spaces. Others remained to tend to the wounded or to give officers directions and provide details about the shooter that proved critical.”
Nasim Najafi Aghdam now joins a short list of female spree shooters, which includes Brenda Spencer, who infamously told police “I don’t like Mondays” after opening fire at an elementary school in 1980 and Jennifer San Marco, who in 2006 killed seven people at a post office she had formally been employed at.