Foley execution video going viral is exactly what ISIS wants
The Sunni extremist group ISIS has released a video claiming to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley. The video, which we have chosen not to show, went viral Tuesday.
Both YouTube and Twitter scrambled to remove the five-minute-long clip and suspend the accounts of those who posted it - citing their policies for graphic content.
It wasn't long before the hashtag #ISISMediaBlackout started trending on Twitter – urging people to not share the video.
The gruesome nature of the video aside, the reasoning is simple. Re-posting it is exactly what the terrorists want - publicity for their propaganda.
The hashtag appears to have originated from this Twitter user. As she put it, "Amputate their reach. Pour water on their flame."
The brutal video has prompted a debate over the best way for news outlets to cover ISIS' social media presence.
CNN's Elise Labott asked whether it was more useful to deny them publicity or raise awareness of their savagery.
Many of those who responded to Labott's tweet seemed to think you could do both - cover the video without actually showing it. But it's an uphill battle for the social media sites trying to take down the images.
FILE - In this May 27, 2011 file photo American Journalist James Foley, of Rochester, N.H., poses for a photo in Boston. The parents of Foley, kidnapped in Syria more than four months ago, said Thursday April 4, 2013 that his latest disappearance is more upsetting than an earlier one in Libya because they donât know who is holding him. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - This undated file still image from video released April 7, 2011, by GlobalPost, shows James Foley of Rochester, N.H., a freelance contributor for GlobalPost, in Benghazi, Libya. A Libyan government spokesman says four journalists detained since early April have completed an administrative hearing and will be released Tuesday or Wednesday.(AP Photo/GlobalPost, File)
Most don't remove extreme content unless it's first flagged by users. Then, as Foreign Policy notes,"the companies also have to determine whether posting violent rhetoric or messages constitutes promoting terrorists' messages or is an act of free speech, and the distinction is not always clear."
Unfortunately, these sites have had experience dealing with ISIS. While waging war in Iraq, the militants have also been waging a war on social media.
Since their initial offensive in June, the group has posted gruesome images documenting their barbaric crimes. The purpose of this online campaign is twofold: attract recruits and inspire fear.
Twitter has responded by banning thousands of ISIS-affiliated accounts, but as terrorism expert J.M. Berger notes, there are always workarounds - with ISIS supporters periodically changing their handles to avoid getting suspended.
To prevent ISIS from getting the attention it wants, colleagues and fans of James Foley have shared these photos instead.
This video contains images from FreeJamesFoley.org.
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