Digital Transformation

Social networks were 'prepared' to halt graphic content of journalist Steven Sotloff's murder, insider claims

By Angela Haggerty | Reporter

September 7, 2014 | 3 min read

Major tech and social media companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter were “prepared” to halt the spread of a video showing the murder of US journalist Steven Sotloff this week, according to reports.

An article in the Guardian quoted a ‘Silicon Valley insider’ - speaking anonymously because of the topic’s sensitivity – saying that YouTube was ready to take down the video following the recent beheading of another US journalist, James Foley, last month.

Murdered: US journalist Steven Sotloff was killed by terror group Isis

The video of Foley spread rapidly on the internet and sent shockwaves across the western world. In the video, terror group Isis paraded Sotloff and threatened the life of the American.

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In response, social media companies were more prepared to halt spread of the images in advance of the video being published, the Guardian’s source claimed.

The news prompted debate over the deletion of the graphic content from networks, with some free speech advocates arguing that content removal may be deemed selective and set a dangerous precedent.

Following Foley’s death, media professor Charlie Beckett of the London School of Economics, told The Drum that restricting such content may have the opposite effect to that intended.

“It’s difficult to eradicate content,” he said. “It’s also possibly detrimental. If you try and lock it down you do two thing; you peak people’s curiosity, they question why they’re being prevented from seeing it, and then of course conspiracy theories thrive. The other thing it does is encourage the terrorist, who will hold it up as censorship.”

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