At the time Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo said the company had a policy of allowing immediate family members and other authorised individuals to request the removal of images or video of deceased individuals, from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death. He said these requests are considered alongside public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content.
Twitter, however, refused a request to be interviewed for this article.
University of Wollongong associate professor in the school of information systems and technology Katina Michael , who researches the socio-ethical implications of emerging technologies, doesn’t buy the idea that those watching violent conduct or terrorist activity are simply innocent observers becoming better informed.
She says creators of content know all too well, the more shocking the scene, the more likely it is to go viral. This means they try to outdo their crimes, so that they can escalate in appeal and shock value.
Censorship is futile
Michael is not an advocate of censoring content, as she is realistic enough to know that trying to keep content off the internet is fruitless and time-consuming. However, she is concerned by the desensitising of young people to increasingly violent material, and says the potential for copycats is undeniable.
“We are not doing society a service by drawing attention to these awful violations of human rights. In fact, we glorify the individual mass murderer, we are meeting the needs of the terrorist organisation if we are viewing things that we do not really need to see," Michael says.
“We also need to think about victims’ families and how they feel when heinous crimes are committed against their partner, son, parent, child, and easily accessible over the internet. If that is not enough there are also those who are blatantly insensitive, commenting in response to a death like ‘he deserved it’, or ‘I hope they also took his wallet and phone’. How are these comments acceptable? They are plainly disturbing."
She says that by resisting the urge to look at such things, we nullify the effect of the perpetrator in the first place.