How has social media adapted to deal with violent terrorist imagery?

BY Nora Daly  August 20, 2014 at 6:14 PM EDT

Kevin Convey, chair of the Department of Journalism at Quinnipaic University, spoke to Hari Sreenivasan about how social media adapts to violent terrorist imagery.

In a statement today, President Obama said the entire world is “appalled” by the brutal murder of American journalist James Foley. Foley was kidnapped in Syria in 2012, and was beheaded yesterday by members of the Islamic State militant group. News of the beheading broke via Twitter when the Islamic State group released a video through one of its official feeds, raising questions about how social media must adapt to deal with violent, terrorist imagery.

Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Kevin Convey, chair of the Department of Journalism at Quinnipaic University, about this issue.

“It’s a first amendment dilemma,” said Convey, in reference to Twitter and YouTube’s efforts to suppress videos and images of Foley’s execution. He concedes that it is problematic that many journalists, using Twitter to report on Foley’s killing, also had their accounts shut down.

“Twitter’s DNA is openness,” he said, and censorship “is at odds with the Wild West, anything goes ethos of social media.”

However, Convey believes that “a strong, thought out policy about images of violence” is now necessary, and that social media platforms, like other mainstream media outlets, must decide “what the limits of speech will be within the context of their organizations.”

He also points out that five years ago, the public probably would not have debated the journalistic standards of social media sites. The discussion points to the Internet’s evolving role in society.