Saturday, 17 May 2014
Is Social Media Prompting Syria's Savage War Videos?
If you were to post the latest Beyonce video clip on Youtube without permission, don't expect it to stay up long. Beyonce's management will swiftly notify YouTube's corporate owner, Google, of the copyright infringement and Google will likely take your video down before Solange has a chance to throw her next punch at Jay Z. But, if you post a clip of a Syrian rebel commander biting into the organs of his enemy, your content may well be safe. The graphic video that shows Khalid al-Hamad desecrating his victim's body has already been viewed some 900,000 times. Duplicates of the clip can be found elsewhere on YouTube. If those outcomes seem inconsistent - toughness on copyright, leniency on cannibalism, that's because the rules of policing social media are still being invented. Some 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, which is far too much for the site to even attempt to pre-screen for inappropriate content. Assuming of course, there's a perfectly acceptable definition of 'inappropriate content'. The argument here is that a graphic video that a user might flag as containing graphic content, with something closer to journalistic intent to inform is more likely to remain up - albeit with warnings and checks to ensure someone underage does not view it (the Hamad video had both). Facebook, like YouTube, decides to err on the side of public interest. But with >30 billion pieces of content shared each month, the site is constantly playing catch up. As can be said for all of us. There are on clear boundaries yet for a world where anyone wit ha smartphone can be a video reporter. And so the online battle over Syria remains every bit as morally murky as the real one.