Calls for social media blackout on mass killings

World Today

Calls for social media blackout on mass killings

The New Zealand terror attack struck a nerve in the United States, where gun violence occurs all too frequently. Top Silicon Valley officials briefed Congress this past week about their efforts to stop the spread of violent content online.Relatives of mass-shooting victims are demanding severe restrictions on videos — and even news coverage of such crimes.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

On March 15th, a gunman killed 50 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. A camera mounted on the shooter’s military-style helmet transmitted the rampage in real time on Facebook Live. 

“I was sick. I was sick at the fact that this video was out there,” said Coni Sanders, a daughter of a victim from the Columbine High School shooting.

Sanders lost her father Dave nearly 20 years ago in the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado. She believes live streaming a crime is merely the latest example of a killer’s use of social media in an attempt to gain fame.

“People are having to become more creative because they know that people are getting less and less tolerant of the shooters gaining notoriety,” Sanders said. “There are extra steps that they’re having to take if they want that recognition.”

Sanders says she learned, painfully, that all the attention paid to her father’s killers pushed the 13 Columbine victims into the background.

“They wrote in their journals that they wanted fame,” Sanders said. “They wanted to go down in history, and we granted their wish and put a bow on it.”

 The No Notoriety movement, of which she’s a part, encourages the downplaying of details in the media about killers and killings. In fact, the gunman’s face was blurred when he was filmed in a New Zealand court.

Facebook worked furiously to remove 1.5 million copies of the shooter’s video from its site soon after the live broadcast which it says was viewed fewer than 200 times, but the disturbing images still spread quickly across the Internet just as the suspect apparently intended.

“I think that he was very savvy about seeing the possibilities for this becoming viral, and that’s the thing that’s dangerous about it,” said Lynn Schofield Clark,  the Chair of the Department of Media, Film, and Journalism Studies at the University of Denver

Clark believes some kind of U.S. or global agency is needed to regulate web content, something she says Internet giants are sure to resist.

“It’s up to us as a public to figure out what do we want and not want and how do we want to make sure we’re holding these organizations accountable when these bad things do happen,” Clark said.

Sanders says while the public has a right to know, it also deserves to be protected from the most graphic parts of events like the live 2015 shooting death of a reporter whose father is now trying to get Google to remove the video from its site.

“This is a terrible way to put it [but] It would take away one of the benefits of killing people, ” Sanders said. “If I want to be famous and I know that killing people was not going to get that for me, maybe I’ll try something else, like music.”