Thursday, 26 November 2009

YouTube's Dark Side


In light of the controversy over the doctored image of Michelle Obama appearing prioritised on Google’s search engine, I would like to dwell on the immoral lack of responsibility of YouTube, the immensely popular video sharing website that, since 2006, has been owned by Google.

YouTube is a phenomenon, there’s no doubt about it. On the site there are millions of uploaded videos that range from footage of the most important historical events of the last 100 years, to the most mind numbingly mundane non-events of the last minute. But the problem is: it uploads whatever is posted, and some are genuinely disturbing.

There are scenes of extreme violence, mutilations, wounds, suicides and fatal accidents. What’s more disturbing than the content is the accessibility of such material. Due to the graphic nature of some videos, a password is required, but anybody can lie about their age on the sign-up form. To think that there are young children and teenagers who have open access to this material is frightening.

To highlight the popularity of such morbid videos here are a few examples:

Sadam Hausen being hanged to death - 2,209,596 views

Fatal diving accident - 6,258,500 views

It is not unusual for other footage that includes graphic accidents and suicides to reach more than a million hits.

There are many video compilations on YouTube. Some are a montage of vehicle crashes. Quite often the compilation may be labelled as ‘funny crash bloopers’, yet amongst the edited footage there are fatal accidents where victims are flung from their vehicles, or knocked down. Sometimes there is an inappropriate soundtrack added. I wonder in horror how the relatives of the victims would react if they knew that their loved one's final moments were being watched all over the world, time and time again.

In the 80’s when only VHS was available, if any film contained a real death it would have been banned, instantly. Now, in 2009, scenes of death can be accessed instantly. And there is nobody out there to stop it.

In 2007 there was a Panorama investigation into mobile phone footage of bullying, fights and happy slapping finding its way onto YouTube and being viewed multiple times. When a controller was asked what would be done with such footage he basically held is hands up and admitted that he will do nothing. And so it continues. The link below will take you to a press release for the aforementioned Panorama programme.

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