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YouTube receives FTC complaint over videos of journalist’s death

YouTube receives FTC complaint over videos of journalist’s death


Alison Parker was murdered live on television five years ago

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Nearly five years ago, reporter Alison Parker was murdered live on television. That video was clipped, published, and seen all across the internet over the years, including thousands of times on YouTube alone. 

On Thursday, Alison’s father Andy Parker filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google, YouTube’s owner, alleging that the company’s handling of the content deceives consumers. Since Alison’s death, conspiracy theorists have reposted the video across the platform, presenting outlandish theories that have garnered hundreds of views online.

“These videos have been edited in numerous ways—in almost every case to increase their shock value,” Parker’s complaint says. “Moreover, the users who perpetuate this type of entertainment continue to harass Mr. Parker by discounting his suffering as fake.” 

YouTube’s own community guidelines prohibit the proliferation of graphic images depicting violence or death, but many of the videos outlined in Parker’s complaint remain live on the platform.

“We rigorously enforce these policies using a combination of machine learning technology and human review and over the last few years, we’ve removed thousands of copies of this video for violating our policies,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge. “We will continue to stay vigilant and improve our policy enforcement.”

In order to moderate its platform, YouTube requires users to flag content, record time stamps, and describe the violence within the offending videos. In the complaint, Parker describes how his friends and family are forced to relive one of the worst days of their lives over and over again by searching for and flagging these videos individually so YouTube will remove them.

“Mr. Parker and his family have had only one tool available to defend themselves from such traumatic vitriol and the nightmare of seeing their daughter’s death: watch these videos one-by-one in order to report them,” the complaint says.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, conspiracy outlets like InfoWars argued for years that the murders were fake. It wasn’t until last June that Google announced it would ban Sandy Hook conspiracy videos broadly. At the same time YouTube banned Sandy Hook videos, it also banned white supremacists and Nazis — another big problem for the platform.