Social media groups were criticised by a parliamentary forum for displaying autoplaying videos of the shooting of two American journalists on live television on Thursday, in the latest pressure on Internet companies to conform to government whims.
Users of Facebook and Twitter complained they had been exposed to the attack on WDBJ7’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward in their feeds due to the widespread practice of embedding videos that play without prompting, a policy intended to increase the views and advertising revenue of online video.
Matt Warman, chair of the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (Pictfor), told the BBC: “Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others have already worked together with government and regulators to prevent people being exposed to illegal, extremist content, using both automatic and manual techniques to identify footage.
“Social media, just like traditional media, should consider how shocking other content can be, and make sure consumers are warned appropriately.”
Following the shooting, which took place on Wednesday, the gunman took to social media to post a clip of the attack he had apparently recorded on his smartphone, which was then circulated online, prompting the complaints.
Twitter and Facebook autoplay videos made me witness the murder of someone from multiple angles today. Good job technology
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) August 26, 2015
Classy act coming out from all the news outlets now posting the video of their murder on Twitter, where it autoplays.
— Matt ‘TK’ Taylor (@MattieTK) August 26, 2015
Though both Twitter and Facebook took down the relevant pages in short order the film and clips from the live broadcast are still readily available online.
As such I have decided to embed the clip below, as it is absurd and insulting to a reader’s intelligence to discuss a piece of embeddable media without giving them the opportunity to view it. This decision is solely mine, and does not necessarily reflect the views of others in the Right Dishonourable.
Snuff movies have become an increasingly prominent feature of social media over the past few years, most notably with the beheading of James Foley by Islamic State in August 2014, a clip of which circulated online.
The distribution of such clips is often criticised as fulfilling terrorists and mass murderers’ propaganda wishes, as well as upsetting the victims’ families. Some studies have indicated media coverage can even inspire copycats.
Image Credit – Twitter offices, San Francisco by Aaron Durand