If you’ve viewed viral screenshots depicting private chats from an anonymous online persona going by the name “Armand,” whether they be conversations with the Buffalo shooter or foreshadowing of the Uvalde school shooting, what you saw was a fake.
Since the May 14 shooting at a Buffalo, New York supermarket, internet users have pored over online documents shared by the shooter, who killed 10 people in a white supremacy-fueled hate crime. Screenshots supposedly from the shooter’s Discord server quickly spread online once the gunman’s presence on the platform was known.
One viral screenshot that originated on the imageboard 4chan purported to show a conversation from March 2022 between a user named “Armand” and the gunman, who went by “Jimboboiii” on Discord. On message boards, social media platforms, and in videos across the web, users speculated about possible interpretations of the short back-and-forth. These screenshots quickly helped birth theories about the shooter having been “groomed” to go on a shooting spree by federal agents.
Mashable has confirmed with Discord that these screenshots are fake. According to a Discord representative who spoke to Mashable, the company has strong evidence which suggests that the user, “Armand,” faked an interaction with the suspect in the Buffalo shooting using multiple Discord accounts.
According to Discord, there appears to have been no contact on Discord between the Buffalo gunman and a user by the name of “Armand.”
The “Armand” screenshots initially became subject to conspiracies shortly after the Buffalo shooting. However, they started to gain further traction following the Uvalde school shooting that occurred in Texas last week.
On May 24, a gunman entered Robb Elementary School and killed 21 people, including 19 students. That same day, new screenshots attempting to tie “Armand” and his alleged Telegram account to the Uvalde school shooter began to spread online. Conspiracies flourished surrounding the idea that “Armand” was in contact with both the Uvalde school shooter and the white supremacist gunman in Buffalo. However, those “Armand” screenshots are forged as well. A former moderator of the 4chan-offshoot imageboard “Frens Chan” was outed as having faked that interaction by the administrators of the site in a statement posted to Frens Chan.
Troll-filled imageboards have been a consistent source of misinformation following mass shootings in the U.S. Hours after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, 4chan users circulated falsehoods claiming that the shooter was transgender. In order to bolster their false claims, 4chan users distributed photos of young trans women they found online. Those were easily debunked as the actual shooter died at the scene and the trans women are alive and were able to identify themselves in the photos.
Following the mass shooting in Buffalo, those trying to understand the shooter’s motives have been discussing the online documents that the gunman left behind purportedly explaining his horrific actions. The “manifesto” includes the shooter’s beliefs in the right-wing conspiracy theory, The Great Replacement, but it also references 4chan memes and has sections that are completely copied-and-pasted from the screeds of other mass shooters. He also posted messages to himself in a private Discord server, logs of which have since been released.
To be clear: the Buffalo shooter did use Discord, and logs of his Discord server are real and do exist. Mashable reviewed the logs and noticed the discrepancies between the “Armand” screenshots originating from 4chan and being shared online and what’s actually included in the transcripts. Discord then confirmed to Mashable that, according to its records, no such interaction occurred.
In the first fake screenshot included above, the Buffalo shooter’s dialogue is made up of verbatim lines from his real Discord chat logs. Additional remarks from “Armand” were inserted in between the gunman’s writings by the creator of the fake screenshot. To make it appear like the shooter is acknowledging “Armand,” the forger fabricated the “Yes” response from the gunman, which does not exist in the legitimate Discord logs. Furthermore, according to a previously published statement by the chat service, the Buffalo shooter’s Discord server was set to private and used as a personal diary. The only individual who had access to the shooter’s Discord prior to May 14, the day of the shooting, was the gunman.
“What we know at this time is that a private, invite-only server was created by the suspect to serve as a personal diary chat log,” a Discord spokesperson told Mashable in a separate statement four days after the shooting in Buffalo. “Approximately 30 minutes prior to the attack, however, a small group of people were invited to and joined the server. Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server.”
In a public statement Discord released on May 20, the social messaging platform said that it “identified and removed accounts of malicious actors” that were “creating fake Discord chat logs to trick law enforcement and media outlets.” In conversation with Mashable, Discord confirmed that the “Armand” screenshots were among these fakes.