Slain Journalist's Father Brings FTC Complaint Against YouTube

The father of a journalist killed on the air is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google for allegedly allowing videos of her murder to remain on the platform.

In a complaint filed Thursday, Andy Parker alleges that Google dupes consumers by stating in the terms of service that it bans violent content, but failing to proactively police the platform.

“For years, YouTube has lied to its consumers by setting rules in its Terms of Service but in practice ignoring those rules entirely,” he alleges in a 73-page complaint prepared by a civil rights clinic at Georgetown University Law Center. “Despite telling its consumers that it prohibits and removes violent, dangerous content on its platform, YouTube has allowed murder videos and pernicious conspiracy theories to fester on its site for years.”

His daughter, Alison Parker, was shot and killed while conducting an on-air interview in Moneta, Virginia on August 26, 2017.

He says in the complaint that videos of his daughter's murder remain available “despite being reported to YouTube countless times.”

He adds that some of the clips were posted by conspiracy theorists who claimed the shooting was staged, while others were edited “to increase their shock value.”

Parker claims YouTube deceives users in several ways, including by stating that violent videos aren't allowed, but then largely relying on users to flag objectionable clips.

“YouTube claims that it polices its platform for these violent and disturbing videos, when in truth it requires victims and their families to do the policing -- reliving their worst moments over and over in order to curb the proliferation of these videos,” he alleges. “And, even when victims abide by YouTube’s deceptively burdensome process for reporting these videos, the site utterly fails to adhere to its own requirement that they be removed.”

A YouTube spokesperson says the company prohibits videos that “aim to shock with violence, or accuse victims of public violent events of being part of a hoax.”

The spokesperson adds that enforcement occurs through a mix of machine learning and human review, and that it has taken down “thousands” of copies of the video.

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