To conceal Foley’s death or not?

On August 19, 2014, a video surfaced on youtube of the beheading of American journalist James Foley, which was published by ISIS. The video quickly began circulating around the internet and it evidently ended up spreading around Twitter; one of the most notable social networking services. Twitter was immediately asked by the victim’s family to take down the video. They responded by sympathizing with the family and agreed to delete all video and picture content of the beheading. A large amount of people may disagree with how Twitter responded to that request, however by concealing those images Twitter responded to its own internal sense of ethics. One of the ethical principles is to show compassion for those who may be affected by certain news coverage. Twitter made a non-consequentialist decision and in my opinion, the right one.

As a society, we should grasp the fact that other people can be greatly affected by something that means nothing to us. Social Media plays a huge role in people’s everyday lives and as a member of the victims family it would be a traumatizing and haunting thing to look at everyday. This explicit content not only includes an act of terrorism but a very personal moment for Foley’s family. It is unfair that the internet can easily turn this into a worldwide “trending topic” over night, because it means nothing but a good story to most of them, while the family has to suffer and grief around all this. There are plenty of other ways the reporting of James Foley’s death could have been publicized. Attaching images of Foley with his parents or wife would probably be more empathizing and easier to read rather than watching the moment he got killed in one of the most inhumane ways.

Twitter chose not to comply to terrorism by choosing to delete all video and picture content of the beheading. ISIS is using the world’s most famous social media platforms for their own good and hopes of recruiting more people to join their terrorist group. Sharing all the gruesome acts they perform on Youtube, Twitter and Facebook is their way of using the platforms for propaganda. Why should these platforms aid them in achieving their goal?

Technology and the Internet has changed the way humans perceive things. Nowadays it is easy to watch an HD concert video on the internet and feel fulfilled. The highly advanced screen that we look through everyday to read our news and watch our videos is normalizing certain things some of us have never actually experienced. It is important to remind ourselves that the things we watch and read are actually happening. It is easy to lose empathy or to feel nothing through a screen. However, it is easy for Foley’s family to feel empathy and pain every time they run into that video because they had a personal relationship and familial bond with the victim.

Twitter wasn’t the only social media platform that decided to take a stand against the video, Youtube also joined the “movement”. It is as if social media companies are beginning to take more of an ethical responsibility rather than merely providing a place for free content. Even though the video is still around the internet, Foley’s family got the respect they asked for and deserve from several social media platforms.