Was twitter right to remove the video of James Foley?

On August 19th 2014 a video showing the beheading of American Photojournalist James Foley was posted on YouTube. The video quickly spread across mainstream & social media and activated powerful debates around the ethics of sharing a video of a man’s death at the hands of a terrorist organization. One of the social media platforms that this video was spread on to is Twitter. A debate started on whether the video of the beheading should be available for anyone to have access to and watch it, or not. This debate led twitter to take the decision to take the video down after Foleys family had requested for it to be removed.

Twitter is a free social networking service that allows members that are registered to broadcast posts such as images, hyperlinks, news etc… Twitter is an infrastructure & content provider and application developer at the same time. The difference between twitter and conformist broadcast media is the fact that there are no editorial decisions involved when it comes to posting tweets. The only accountability for messages lies within the user, not the company. Therefore when twitter took the decision and removed the video of James Foley, people where with it and others where against it.

When you think of Foleys family would you want them to be confronted by these images on a regular basis? Especially if they had specifically asked for the video to be removed indicating that they are not comfortable with a video of a family member being murdered to be available to the eyes of the public. At times like these, the opinion of Foleys family should be given importance disregarding the moral ethics of having a video removed after it has already been posted but a Twitter member.

But at the same time twitter has now become a source of news for many people. That’s where people go to get the type of news that they can’t find on broadcast media. To have this type of censorship could be harmful. Also if militants want to be transparent with their actions maybe it’s beneficial for the society to be able to see their actions and keep an eye on the lookout for what they are capable of doing. In tough times like these, it is hard for the victims’ family to separate themselves for the situation and view it in an objective manner. Having the video out there may actually give Foleys family some hope that they may find out who the person responsible for the death of their son is.

In a case like this, consequential theories must be applied. Regardless of the basic rights and the moral duties of media, if a certain video produces negative outcome to a person that has a direct relation with it (them being Foleys family), it should not be an issue for it to be removed. People may argue that they will not ignore the consequences of this video but emphasize on the fundamentals of not having this video be taken down by twitter. Whereas in this case, the debate is not worthy since this video is available on other social media platforms. If the family of the victim asked for this video to be removed in honor of respect, then it should not be an issue. People would argue that if the video was removed then it is like the terrorist attack did not happen and it allows ISIS to get away with such an attack. But with the presence of this video on different platforms, taking it down on twitter causes no harm nor alters in the facts of the event itself since we are still capable of viewing the incident on other social platforms. Them not being ones like twitter where we do not have direct control to what we read or see.

As a conclusion, the removal of the James Foley video did not cause as much harm; it was more beneficial within regard to how it affected to Foleys family. The ability of being able to spread and share anything anywhere is not always beneficial hence sometimes it may harm people we don’t take into consideration. Each situation should be studied and carefully weigh the benefits and harms of every idea.