Almost five years ago, reporter Alison Parker was murdered live on television. Over the years, that video has been cut, published and viewed on the internet, including thousands of times only on YouTube.
On Thursday, Alison’s father Andy Parker filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google, the owner of YouTube, who claims that the way the company handles the content misleads consumers. Since Alison’s death, conspiracy theorists have put the video back on the platform and presented bizarre theories that have collected hundreds of views online.
“These videos have been edited in different ways – in almost all cases to increase their shock value,” says Parker. “In addition, the users who maintain this type of entertainment continue to harass Mr. Parker by considering his suffering a fake.”
YouTube’s own community guidelines prohibits the distribution of graphic images of violence or death, but many of the videos described in Parker’s complaint remain live on the platform.
“We strictly enforce this policy using a combination of machine learning technology and human assessments, and in recent years we have removed thousands of copies of this video for violating our policies,” a YouTube spokesperson said The edge. “We will remain vigilant and improve our policy enforcement.”
To moderate the platform, YouTube requires users to flag content, record time stamps, and describe the violence in the offensive videos. In the complaint, Parker describes how his friends and family are forced to relive one of the worst days of their lives by searching and marking these videos separately so that YouTube will remove them.
“Mr. Parker and his family had only one tool available to defend themselves against such traumatic vitriol and the nightmare of seeing their daughter’s death: watch these videos one by one to report them,” the complaint says.
In the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook in 2012, conspiracy outlets such as InfoWars had been claiming for years that the murders were fake. Only in June last year did Google announce that it would ban Sandy Hook conspiracy videos broadly. At the same time, YouTube prohibited Sandy Hook videos, it also banned white supremacists and Nazis – another big issue for the platform.