Andy Parker wants social media sites to delete traumatic videos of his daughter Alison Parker’s murder
After television journalist Alison Parker and her colleague, cameraman Adam Ward, were murdered by a former colleague during a live broadcast in 2015, video of the crime circulated on social media.
According to Alison’s father, Andy Parker, this footage is still available. And he and others tried to have those images removed from all platforms.
“I knew the video of Alison’s murder consumed pages and pages and pages on YouTube,” Parker said.
“I was just amazed that it proliferated, that YouTube allows this kind of graphic content and murder on their platforms when they clearly say, ‘No, we don’t allow that. “”
Parker said the responsibility rests with his family to ensure these images are deleted. But it shouldn’t be like that. “Google’s response was, ‘Well, you have to report every single one of them,'” he said. “Me, me, me personally. ‘You should report videos that you think are inappropriate.’ It’s like asking me to watch my daughter’s murder over and over and over again.
For Parker, the problem is not so much with the individuals posting the videos as with the large digital platforms that enabled the posting.
“These social media platforms are protected from any form of liability,” he said. “You can’t sue them for doing this stuff.”
Indeed, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides a legal shield to digital platforms.
“We wouldn’t have these issues if you took away the immunity of these platforms from lawsuits,” Eric Feinberg said.
He is an activist of the group Coalition for a Safer Web. He helped the Parker family try to delete the videos, but Section 230 makes that nearly impossible.
“Section 230 is anti-consumer protection law,” he said. “It doesn’t allow someone like Andy and Barbara to sue or continue these businesses.”
Parker went to Georgetown University’s Civil Law Clinic, and they agreed to help him approach Google and Facebook.
“We tried to be nice and say, ‘You have to do the right thing,'” he said. “And, of course, that got no response.
“And so we finally filed a complaint with the FTC last year in February 2020,” he continued. “So it’s been two years since we filed a complaint with the FTC against Google for violating their terms of service. They say, ‘We don’t allow that.’
Google did not respond to the 2020 FTC complaint.
In a 2020 statement to The Washington Post, YouTube said it had removed thousands of videos of Parker’s shooting since 2015, adding, “Our community guidelines are designed to protect the YouTube community, including those impacted by tragedies.
The statement continued, “We rigorously enforce these policies using a combination of machine learning technology and human review. … We will continue to remain vigilant and improve the application of our policy.
But Parker says the videos can still be found. And not just on Google platforms.
“We know there are still videos of Alison’s murder on Facebook,” he said. “That’s when we decided to file an FTC complaint against Facebook. Facebook says they took it down, and they didn’t. It’s like Mark Zuckerberg I was basically like, ‘Fuck you. The FTC and Congress because I can do whatever I want.'”
According to Parker, the platforms take advantage of these images. “Social media platforms, they can do it, and they choose not to. So what’s the motivation here? What’s the motivation? Why wouldn’t they take it away?” he said.
“But that’s because we know, and most people don’t, that if you click on something, what they want to do is they want to keep you engaged on the platform so that advertisers can see it,” he said.
“So it’s not just if you click on an ad, they make money. It’s when you click if you don’t click on anything else, if you click on another video, and in the case of YouTube, you have the scroll bar to the right of the column on the right side that has all the related videos and stuff.”
Parker said each time someone clicks on it, it collects a person’s data and can turn around and sell that data to advertisers.
“That’s what they do. They monetize it,” he said. “They make money out of it. They want to keep you on the platforms, and that’s why they won’t take it down.”
Feinberg said advertisers also have a role to play in all of this. “Where these platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram, get their oxygen is advertisers,” he said. “And I think ad brands need to play their part better and be more proactive with these platforms.”
“More companies, more brands in the advertising industry need to own this with us.”
Parker insists that keeping the videos on the platform is not a First Amendment issue.
“Showing a murder video and keeping it on your platform is not free speech,” he said, “It’s savagery, and that’s all it’s about. is, plain and simple.”
And the grieving father said he would like to see more legal action.
“It’s really in Congress,” he said. “I want to see Congress, if nothing else, I want them to do what I call Alison’s Law, where they limit the scope of what they’re going to amend on Section 2 30, at the ‘prohibition of murder video, violent content, hate speech, harassment. Let’s just change it to include it in the actions, in the legal actions that can result in legal action that we can take against these platforms.
“We need to move on and remove immunity from those platforms that allow this kind of harmful and toxic content,” Feinberg noted. “If there was no immunity, Andy could sue Facebook, he could sue YouTube, he could sue any platform that has Alison’s video on there. Instead, because that they’re covered by this archaic 1996 law that gives them immunity, there’s no incentive for them to take it down.”
In response to the FTC’s complaint, Facebook said in a statement, “These videos violate our policies, and we continue to remove them from the platform as we have done since this disturbing incident first occurred.
“We also continue to proactively detect and remove visually similar videos when uploaded,” they added.
But so far, Feinberg said, the complaint hasn’t resulted in much concrete action. “I can still go to Facebook as we speak. I can find Alison. I can still find videos of this horrific attack. It has now been three weeks since the FTC complaint was filed, and there has been no no action. And part of the FTC’s complaint was that their reporting systems are archaic, outdated, and we haven’t received any response. The videos are still online.
In the future, Parker would still like to see legislation addressing this larger issue.
“I want to see Congress lift its liability immunity so we can go through our day in court,” he said. “That’s what I want to see. I want to see Google and Facebook brought to justice for the pain, suffering and cruelty they have inflicted on not just me, but many people.”