MPs have called for social media reform after footage of the WDBJ7 shooting was automatically playing on users’ Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds.
Yesterday, an on-air reporter and cameraman from US network WDBJ7 were shot during a live broadcast by who reports are describing was a “disgruntled employee”. The video footage was then uploaded to social networks by the gunman Vester Lee Flanagan before he shot himself.
The footage of the shooting was being retweeted and posted onto Facebook and Twitter, both these sites have set video content to play automatically by default, many users saw the video without a graphic content warning and without choosing to watch the footage.
The chair of the cross-party Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (PICTFOR) Matt Warman told the BBC that sites should automatically lock such content.
“Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others have already worked together with government and regulators to prevent people being exposed to illegal, extremist content, using both automatic and manual techniques to identify footage.
“Social media, just like traditional media, should consider how shocking other content can be, and make sure consumers are warned appropriately.”
Twitter users reacted angrily to social media sites auto-playing of the footage.
To my former colleagues at the @NewsandRecord, I recommend you take down the autoplay video of the Virginia shooting.
— John Robinson (@johnrobinson) August 26, 2015
Mr. Flanagan has now posted an autoplay loop of his first person shooting of two reporters on social media … this is unprecedented.
— Geoffrey Ingersoll (@GPIngersoll) August 26, 2015
Social media users used to make a choice not to view harrowing videos, it is dangerous that in stream autoplay takes that option away.
— Neal Mann (@fieldproducer) August 26, 2015
Just a gentle reminder to please use your judgment in tweeting/sharing videos/photos of horrible things. For many, tweeted videos autoplay.
— Linda Holmes (@nprmonkeysee) August 26, 2015
Twitter and Facebook autoplay videos made me witness the murder of someone from multiple angles today. Good job technology
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) August 26, 2015
Auto play on social media is an issue. It happened with James Foley. Happened with others. It happened again today.
— Ross Maghielse (@Maghielse) August 26, 2015
Classy act coming out from all the news outlets now posting the video of their murder on Twitter, where it autoplays.
— Matt ‘TK’ Taylor (@MattieTK) August 26, 2015
It’s a pretty simple syllabus: 1) don’t retweet videos of murders. Why?: a) you’re disseminating sick propaganda b) social video autoplays
— Chris Stokel-Walker (@stokel) August 26, 2015
He’s posting video, if you’re on mobile/anything that autoplays, don’t check out his account.
— Caitlin Kelly (@atotalmonet) August 26, 2015
In other WDBJ7 news, UK’s The Sun has been slammed for their graphic front page of the on-camera murder.