YouTube refuses father's request to remove video of daughter's killing

Graig Graziosi
Alison Parker and her father Andy: AP

The father of journalist Alison Parker, who was shot and killed while conducting an interview in 2015, is fighting with YouTube to have the video of his daughter’s death removed from the site.

In August 2015, Ms Parker and a cameraman, Adam Ward, were working in the field in southern Virginia when a former colleague walked up and shot them, killing them both. The gunman recorded the video of his killings using a GoPro and uploaded the footage to the internet.

The Washington Post reported that Andy Parker, Ms Parker’s father, has been fighting for years to have the video of his daughter’s death removed from the site.

“We’re flagging the stuff. Nothing coming down,” Mr Parker said. “This is crazy. I cannot tolerate them profiting from my daughter’s murder, and that’e exactly what they do.”

YouTube hosting disturbing videos is not in violation of any specific laws. However, the website does have a set of community guidelines that prohibits videos meant solely to shock by depicting violence or death.

Mr Parker filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission arguing that YouTube not removing the videos of his daughter’s death proves that the website is violating its own terms of service. The complaint, which was written by the Civil Rights Clinic of Georgetown University Law Center, argued that the video of Ms Parker’s death was one of many instances of the site violating its own rules.

“Videos of Alison’s murder are just a drop in the bucket. There are countless other videos on YouTube depicting individuals’ moment of death, advancing hoaxes and inciting harassment of the families of murder victims, or otherwise violating YouTube’s Terms of Service,” the complaint stated.

The FTC has taken action against both YouTube and Google, fining Google $170 million over claims it illegally collected data about children under the age of 13 watching toy videos on YouTube.

YouTube rejected the idea that it intentionally allows any of the videos in question to exist on the site.

“Our Community Guidelines are designed to protect the YouTube community, including those affected by tragedies,” the statement said. “We specifically prohibit videos that aim to shock with violence, or accuse victims of public violent events of being part of a hoax. We rigorously enforce these policies using a combination of machine learning technology and human review … We will continue to stay vigilant and improve our policy enforcement.”

YouTube claimed that in one quarter of 2019, it removed 1.3 million videos for violating its policies regarding violent or graphic content. Video of Ms Parker’s death - because it was part of a breaking news event - is given exception from YouTube’s policies. Videos that might otherwise violate the site’s standards but have educational, news, artistic or scientific value are not automatically deleted.