Yesterday there was yet another shooting in America. That, in itself, isn’t unusual and will probably continue for quite some time yet. What was different was the fact that the double murder occured on live morning TV. Footage from Virginia has already appeared on news bulletins all over the world but then, just to make matters even worse, the shooter uploaded another video – one he’d recorded on his smartphone from behind the gun. It is, let me tell you, shocking.
The video shows WDBJ7 TV reporter Alison Parker getting shot from close-range by the killer – disgruntled ex-employee Vester Lee Flanagan, aka Bryce Williams. She screams and hits the floor as more bullets sink into her back. It’s all captured in HD before the gunman turns his attention to cameraman Adam Ward, killing him too.
The gunman went on the run, posting updates on Twitter. The social network quickly blocked the account after he started tweeting his grievances and “reasons” for the murders. However, the information was already out there and he’d even had time to post his sick Call Of Duty-style video onto Facebook.
Facebook is a social network which has already courted controversy, blocking pictures of mothers breastfeeding but allowing photos of beheading. Whether the video was removed it not, it was all too late. People had already grabbed the footage and uploaded it elsewhere.
It’s bad enough that the full un-cut footage from the live TV feed is on YouTube, but what makes matters worse is that the full un-cut footage from the killer’s smartphone is there too. It’s been uploaded dozens and dozens of times, perhaps more, and is now grabbing the catchy handle of “WDBJ7 Shooter POV” (Point Of View). If you haven’t seen it, just ask your kids. If they’ve got a device that’s not in your sight then they’ve probably seen it. You can put all the blocks and age restrictions you want on their account, but if they can get to YouTube then they’ll probably find gore, horror, destruction and death very easily.
YouTube has their own special way of dealing with inappropriate videos. Firstly, they’ll need “the community” to flag them, and then they’ll probably wait until quite a few people have flagged it before taking action. They’ll also rely on their own tech, which looks for re-uploads of footage which has already been classed as “inappropriate”. Trouble is, people are aware that they can just re-edit the footage, rename it a bit and then get it online again.
Having age restrictions is simply useless on YouTube, because the community decide what’s appropriate and what isn’t. With so many videos and so many re-uploads of this horror show, it’s a constant game of whack a mole. Plus, even when that community does decide that a video is inappropriate, someone at YouTube then has to agree.
Basically, if you want to see a video and it’s blocked, you’ll probably find a slightly different but equally disturbing version which hasn’t been blocked yet.
To show you how easy all of this is, I took to YouTube just a few hours after all this happened to show the problem…
I’m not blaming parents, I’m not blaming kids. The kids are inquisitive and parents, even when we’re trying our best to protect kids, need to know just how insanely easy it is for kids to see this.
No, I’m not going to preach. Perhaps it’s just me. I think we’re all becoming a little desensitized now. Is it REALLY a good thing for us all to be able to watch people being murdered so easily? Is it right that the iPod or iPhone you got your child can show that at the click of a button without you ever knowing?
We live in a world where new reporters just regurgitate Twitter posts and YouTube videos, looking for the most shocking headline just to keep the precious visitor count up.
We live on a world where social networks and video sharing sites rely on users to moderate and filter an endlessly huge amount of content. It’s a system which simply does not work. It’s like trying to herd cats or trying to push water uphill with a rake.
We live in a world where kids have phones with access to YouTube, a site where you can see dismembered bodies after searching for a “crash aftermath” or “fatal accident” with little or no concern for the person watching. Screw it. Hits and adverts, that’s more important to a website than protecting your child. That’s more important than twisting up the next generation to such a point where filming the aftermath of a car or plane crash is more important than actually, you know, helping people. Oh no, wait. That’s already happening, right now.