“If you watch terrorism, you’re also a terrorist”
Are you a terrorist?
Don’t be quick to shake your head in ridicule because you might be forced to reconsider your answer if you have watched or shared the infamous video depicting the brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley.
The British police have warned the public that merely watching the James Foley beheading video within the UK may be a criminal offense under terrorism legislation.
I haven’t seen the video (does that mean I’m not a terrorist? Phew!) but it has been reported by several legacy media that the video shows an ISIS militant decapitating Foley as a message to America.
“Scotland Yard warned the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating the video within the UK might constitute a criminal offence under terrorism legislation,” states a report by the British police.
“In other words….if you watch terrorism, you’re also a terrorist,” remarked Zero Hedge.
Initially, when I heard about Scotland Yard’s declaration, my first thought was “it’s about time!”. I was reminded of a blog I wrote a few weeks prior, exploring how the public’s sharing of the graphic images from the Gaza and Israel conflict was disrespectful to the victims, regardless of the claim to portray the ‘reality of war’.
But when I read about it on the internet, I was slightly taken back. Sharing the video is one thing. On one hand it was disrespectful to the family and the memory of James Foley, a brave journo who had risked his life attempting the citizen’s democratic right to information.
It was heart-breaking when even Kelly, Foley’s sister, urged people on Twitter not to watch or share the video.
On the other hand, it is inconsiderate to those people on your timeline who may not want to view such brutality.
But the fact that merely watching the video clip could be treated as an act of terrorism is another thing. It brings an important question: How do you begin to control who views what in 2014?
How would the British police attempt to track down all those who watch the video? We live in an age where it is difficult to control the flow of information: you delete something; it pops up in another account within seconds. It then seems quite a ridiculous task to try to bring these ‘terrorists’ to book.
And this where social media sites come in.
YouTube has confirmed the video has been removed from its site and that it will terminate any accounts which are seen to promote terrorist ideology.
"YouTube has clear policies that prohibit content like gratuitous violence, hate speech and incitement to commit violent acts, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users. We also terminate any account registered by a member of a designated foreign terrorist organisation and used in an official capacity to further its interests," a spokesperson added.
Twitter's chief executive Dick Costolo also warned people found posting images of video of the alleged murder to the social media site that their account will be suspended.
Interestingly, this is not the first time the British government have attempted to censor media online. In 2011, the British government ordered YouTube to remove footage of the British Constitution Group’s Lawful Rebellion protest, during which they attempted to civilly arrest Judge Michael Peake at Birkenhead county court.
Ultimately, I welcome the idea by Scotland Yard and I applaud YouTube and Twitter for coming on board. On that note, I think such measures should be taken not only on terrorist media but all graphic content lurking in the dark corners of the net. Of course I’m not calling for all perpetrators to be charged with terrorism, but suspending their accounts is a start.
At the end of the day, as much as the internet has increased the possibilities of the information we can access, it doesn’t mean we should forget our humanity.
— ABC News 24 (@ABCNews24) August 20, 2014