Was Twitter right to remove the beheading video of James Foley?
Journalists are both the eye and the ear of a public claiming his right to access neutral, independent and transparent information. Reporters must be able to highlight accurate facts; this is specifically where the whole difficulty lies. After the diffusion of James Foley beheading video on social media, there was a debate on weather or not it should be removed from Twitter.
In my opinion, it was a right move to erase it.
To begin with, what must absolutely be predominant in the spreading of informations through all sorts of medias, is the victims and their families interests. It is their dignity and intimacy that need to be preserved, notably in such awful moments.
Indeed, tweets of french politician Marine le Pen sharing images of Foley’s execution have been seen from across the Atlantic ocean by the victim’s family. They expressed themselves as being completely shocked and outraged by the diffusion of their son’s aggression video and they called to withdraw the images immediately. They found the act unethical for it was the dignity of their son that was jeopardized when he was completely powerless and vulnerable.
It is also important to mention that families should be informed first, not learn about the news that will shaken their entire life on TV, or from strangers who happened to access the information first.
Second, there must be a scale of priority concerning the informations transmitted, and this regardless of location, time and circumstances.
After James foley’s death, some people were completely against censoring ISIS for they considered that the public had to see by itself the gravity of the organization’s despicable acts.
Here again, I do not think that remnants of human bodies are the best thing to show in order to make the audience realize the importance of the situation.
Indeed, the photo that showed one of the victim’s sneakers left on the street after Paris bombing on November 2015, for example, was far more explicit than pieces of human flesh and pools of dried blood filmed by the Lebanese journalists 24 hours before, during Beirut’s attack.
It is absolutely pointless to shout and gesticulate in all directions in order to make the viewer realize the seriousness of the moment. Self-control is rather recommended in this kind of situation where objective information must remain the priority.
Also, let’s point out that Twitter respond to the following policy; users should not utter threats or incite anyone to violence, including terrorist threats and the defense of terrorism.
Although Twitter, Facebook and YouTube acted quickly to block the controversial content concerning James Foley execution, the incident highlighted the importance of internet propaganda practiced by the jihadist organization. Spreading videos featuring scenes of beheading, stoning or torture serves the purposes of intimidation pursued by ISIS. These social media platforms should not accept to become “vehicles” for Daesh’s indoctrination. Reusing the photos on twitter is reviving their propaganda campaign that not only spread destructive messages, but also diffuse their version of the news and finally help to recruit other murderers.
Of course, closing ISIS’s social accounts will not make all the material disappear from the Internet but it definitely will make it harder to find and distribute.
Plus, I do not think that this approach would constitute a serious impact against freedom of expression since the violent and sectarian aims of ISIS are contrary to international law which justify a radical intervention like censorship.
I think that the removal of the beheading video of James foley was definitely a good move.
In the end, the possibility of saying everything and showing everything is not only conditioned by ethical stakes, but also by legal constraints and a professional conscience.
Journalists must learn to say but not harm the most vulnerable, show but not shock, testify but not attack, denounce but not condemn. Sobriety is crucial.