The Iranian-American woman who opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters this week appears to have lashed out after she felt the company had censored her often bizarre videos— a motive that many found perplexing in Iran, where YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are blocked.
Nasim Aghdam, who posted videos under the online name Nasime Sabz, opened fire at YouTube on Tuesday, wounding three people before killing herself. Her father said she was angry at the video-sharing website because it had stopped paying for her videos, which promoted exercise, animal rights and a vegan diet.
People who post on YouTube can receive money from advertisements that accompany their videos, but the company “de-monetizes” some channels for reasons including inappropriate material or having fewer than 1,000 subscribers.
Whatever obstacles she faced were dwarfed by those in Iran, where the government blocks YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and where online content critical of authorities or Islam can land people in jail.
Hossein Naderi, a 23-year-old art student in Tehran, questioned why Aghdam chose to “live in the U.S., though she didn’t like it there,” adding: “I wish I was there to use YouTube freely.”
Aghdam also ran a Farsi-language channel on the messaging app Telegram, which had 6,000 followers, but she was virtually unknown in Iran, where some 40 million people are believed to use the service. In one post she says: “Internet crackdown and filtering is increasing in the West.”
Hamideh Heidari, a 35-year-old teacher in Tehran, said Aghdam needed “psychiatric help.”
Kimia Shobeiri, 18, suggested the shooting, like Aghdam’s prolific posts, was a ploy to get attention.
“She was insane and just wanted to make herself famous,” she said. “With this act she damaged the reputation of Iranians.”
The Farsi-language content Aghdam posted on Telegram would have been unlikely to attract a large following in Iran. One video was a tutorial on buttocks massage, and another featured a song praising Bahaism, a religion that originated in Iran but is heavily suppressed by the Islamic Republic.
Ghasem Mahmoudi, a kitchen utensils trader in Tehran, blamed the shooting on social media itself, where “anybody, without a background check, has a channel or whatever where he can broadcast ideas with no controls.”
“This encourages any unbalanced person to see himself as a hero, or a prophet.”