YouTube and Videotaped Violence

9 years ago

Should YouTube and other online video sites be held more accountable for the increase in fights being posted on their sites?

After that horrible incident in Florida a few weeks ago of several girls luring another girl to a house so they could beat her up, videotape the incident and then post it on YouTube, there have been many discussions about whether YouTube bears any responsibility for monitoring what's posted on their site more closely.

An Associated Press article explored the questions of YouTube's responsibility and ethical and legal blame:

...there doesn't appear to be anything illegal about the video, said John Morris, senior counsel with the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil-liberties group in Washington, D.C.

"There is no legal reason this video cannot be shown. It is obviously distasteful, abhorrent what the teenagers did to the victim, but it doesn't really make sense (to ask), 'Should YouTube have taken it down?'" Morris said.

Well after conducting a little experiment at YouTube, I disagree and I'll tell you why.

If you go to YouTube and do a search for "girls fighting," you'll get twenty-five plus pages of girls fighting. Now some of the clips on those pages are from TV and animated film clips, but the majority are literally, girls fighting.

Some of the sub categories of "girls fighting" included the following: "12 year old girls fighting," "black girls fighting," and of course "hot girls fighting." Bleh.

The first thing I did was to check out the YouTube Community Guidelines. They include the following statements:

Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don't post it.

Now note that they say, "don't post it," not "we'll take it down." The guidelines also contain YouTube's policy for users to flag videos they believe violate YouTube's guidelines:

When a video gets flagged as inappropriate, we review the video to determine whether it violates our Terms of Use—flagged videos are not automatically taken down by the system. If we remove your video after reviewing it, you can assume that we removed it purposefully, and you should take our warning notification seriously. Take a deep breath, read our Terms of Use and try to see it from our perspective.

Why does something have to be flagged before it gets reviewed? Shouldn't anything with girls, boys or anybody else fighting, punching and kicking each other, be considered "graphic and gratuitous violence?" I think it should. Especially if it involves minors, which many of the clips from my search results did.

Next, I flagged several videos and I'm interested to see what will happen to them. The procedure for flagging a video involves the viewer selecting a reason. For example, there's the category "violent or repulsive content," and under that category, the sub categories, "minors fighting" and "adults fighting."

However you're warned when you flag something that "Abusing this feature is also a violation of the Community Guidelines, so don't do it." Well, since I flagged five videos, I guess I can expect my YouTube account to be pulled any day now.

I then got the message: "Content of this nature is not necessarily prohibited on YouTube, however we will review this video and take action as appropriate."

One girl fight video I saw was uploaded under the category of "comedy." How nice. It didn't look particularly funny to me. Or to the two people involved.

What I also found fascinating was the "Bikini Girl Fight" was tagged as "not suitable for minors." But this "Cat Fight" video wasn't listed that way.

Matt Ryan at The Frugal Geek asks, "Does YouTube Promote Violence?" His answer is no. When referring to the Florida incident he had this to say:

This was a tragedy, and the kids involved deserve punishment to the full extent of the law. I have a sad feeling that Myspace and YouTube are going to be brought up in a senseless lawsuit brought on by concerned parents. Blame the idiots, not the unwilling third party technology that they use to be idiots. Blame parents that apparently have no control or idea what their children are doing online.

Bianca at Bianca's Blog thought it was all an issue of "Media and Ethics:"

When does a site like YouTube decide when inappropriate videos need to be taken down? I am not much of a YouTube user, but I have browsed around on it a little. I have never seen anything terribly inappropriate. Weird, but nothing compared to the teen getting beat up by a pack of girls. The person who posted the video should have thought over in their head the consequences. Their first thought should have been “Is this ethical?” and “Will I get in trouble for this?” After this incident, I wonder if YouTube will be closely monitored and if they will take any actions against copycats.

Amber at Amber's Blog had this observation about violence:

Children are growing up with this feeling that violence is not a big deal and that people will bounce back.

In reality people do not bounce back and the example of Victoria Lindsay being brutally beaten by six girls shows exactly this. Yet, the parents of the Victoria are not placing all of the blame on the attackers but on Youtube which posted the video of the attack. While it is Youtube’s responsibility to monitor all of the videos placed on their site, it is also the responsibility of the viewers to tag the videos as inappropriate.

Karen Sugarpants describes a horrific incident on her blog:

Two days ago, a student at the high school that our sitter goes to, not 5 minutes from my house, was beaten to unconsciousness and while he was passed out on the pavement, the boys who were beating him up kept kicking him in the head.

He is in hospital now.

Those boys kept kicking him.

Other students filmed the entire thing with their cell phones.

Christine at Weary Parent wrote a post: "How To Make Sure You Kid Isn't Videotaping A Fight For YouTube."

Her number one rule:

Talk to your kids about appropriate material online. My kids (even my eight-year-olds and my five-year-old) all know we have rules when it comes to being online. There are certain things they can and cannot look at and there are certain things they can and cannot post online. We go over these rules often and even have our kids sign a contract stating they will follow our rules.

She has seven other very good rules to help educate your child about the increase in online violence.

On a related issue Dr. Robyn Silverman at the Powerful Parent Blog wrote a post about a new video game called, "Bully."

In the game, the main character, age 15, uses violence to deal with bullies in school. He is described by the makers as “Jimmy Hopkins, a teenager who’s been expelled from every school he’s ever attended.” The player gets points when Jimmy kisses girls, plays pranks on teachers and beats up his enemies. Believe me, I wish I was kidding.

Especially after several examples of YouTube videos showing bullying, a video game promoting violence in school is disturbing. While no guns are used or blood shed (thank goodness), it certainly isn’t a calm day at Bullworth academy.

Now to be fair, YouTube isn't the only online video site that is facing this issue. But as the most popular, they unfortunately have to bear the brunt of the publicity and the responsibility for exploring ways to keep these videos off the internet.

Megan Smith is a BlogHer Contributing Editor covering TV and YouTube and she'd love for all the girl fight videos to disappear from YouTube. Megan's other blogs are Megan's Minute and Video Runway.


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