SOCIAL MEDIA erupted this week with footage of James Foley, an American journalist, brutally beheaded at the hands of ISIS. YouTube removed one version of the video, citing a violation of their policy on violent content. On Tuesday, Twitter announced a new policy that it would remove images and video of the deceased at the request of family members. Accounts that featured the graphic imagery started disappearing from the site. Though Twitter can now remove certain images only at the request of family members, Twitter users started urging friends not to share the content anyway. In less than two hours, the hashtag #ISISMediaBlackout had more than 3,800 tweets.
Should platforms like YouTube and Twitter really have the power to censor what content we can or cannot see? At least in America, the suppression of disturbing or offensive content, if it does not incite violence, is a direct violation of our principles of free speech. Especially in this instance, it seems deeply inappropriate to respond to authoritarianism with authoritarian action.