The important thing about the Internet is that it gives us access to all kinds of information and images that not very long ago would be either impossible to get.
The downside, at least as it applies to video, is that the gatekeepers don’t do much to restrict what you’ll be able to find. It’s interesting that the Internet can arrange lightning speed online video advertising arrangements, but has difficulty or refuses to make the much harder of life’s decisions: Is this video fit appropriate for audiences to see?
In the last few days, you may have read about the family that tried to get TMZ.com to take down a video of their son being murdered outside a Los Angeles nightclub, and despite an online petition, some advertiser backlash and several news stories including one here, the footage is still there. The Los Angeles Times says the video helped police find the alleged assailants, which is good. That was then. This is now. The video, a bit truncated, is still there for what reason, exactly?
In Great Britain, there’s a stirring there right now about a video that shows members of a mosque confronting, chasing and berating non-Muslims for their heathen lifestyle, and particular takes after a homosexual, calling him all the names you’ve heard before, with implicit threats.
A couple days ago, the ABC station in Dallas reported on a video showing the pilot of a small plane buzzing by within inches or feet of hitting a person perched on an all-terrain vehicle on a runway. That video—“19 seconds of adrenaline” a reporter called it--caught the attention of the Federal Aviatiion Administration. They saw it, along with 19,000 people who saw it, on YouTube, where it went viral. (Apparently, the pilot and the ATV person were in cahoots, as was the photographer who took video, but that’s conjecture at this point.)
Two out of three of those examples bother me. On an ABC Website, you can view the video, and you can still view the murder of an ordinary young man on TMZ.com, a site that is otherwise famous for showing show biz personalities in debasing ways. This dead person was just a guy leaving a night club; the video, which once had immediate news value, is now there just for the chilling fun of it.
As far as I can tell, the BBC has reported about the Muslim video available on YouTube but doesn’t link to it. Maybe that happens on some other place in BBCville, or had happened at some other time in the brief history of this story, but I would like to believe the BBC might have a rule that says it can report the bad behavior of online video makers without actually showing the ugly stuff they do.
Or, at the least, that someone at the BBC made what used to be termed a “judgment call.” You can make those calls for any number of reasons, but it is much easier to not make those determinations at all, because you would be “imposing” your opinion on others.
Once, that was what media organizations did. It was re-re-re-something. Responsible. That’s it!
But the invention of user-created content and the ubiquity of video have led to a Internet video world that is both wide open and omnivorous. Anything can go.
YouTube does have guidelines that are general (as they should be) and which they say are actually enforced. I understand that 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. (Actually I don’t understand that at all; it is an unbelievable stat). I understand it is an entertainment site that sometimes makes news for what others post because they apparently feel it’s entertaining or enlightening.
But highlighting the worst YouTube videos by a third party, is different. And in the case of TMZ.com, which has its own disturbing video what’s the answer to the question, “Why do this?” Or are we just never going to ask that anymore?