There's A Reasonable Debate To Be Had About Showing The James Foley Beheading Video, But Claiming Its Illegal To Watch Is Ridiculous

from the name-the-law dept

By now you've probably heard of the barbaric and tragic beheading of journalist James Foley by the extremist group ISIS. There's an ongoing debate happening as many people sought to have the video (and screenshots) removed from the internet. Twitter and YouTube are actively removing such things, and even shutting down some accounts of people who are sharing those links. Mathew Ingram has a fantastic discussion about whether or not it's the right thing for these companies to be removing those images and videos, and our own Tim Geigner has been weighing whether or not to write about the subject.

However, I wanted to do a quick post about this ridiculous claim from the Metropolitan police in London that it's a criminal act merely to view the video. I have no interest in seeing the video, but I think it's crazy that someone deciding they do want to see the video might face criminal charges over it.
The MPS Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley. We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation.
However, when reporters from Buzzfeed asked the UK government to elaborate, no one will say what law would actually be broken:
The Metropolitan police are unable to currently name the law that citizens could be arrested under for watching the video that depicts the beheading of photojournalist James Wright Foley, despite earlier releasing a statement that said any British nationals watching the video could be committing a criminal offence.
They did get a police spokesperson to say that they're not intending to pursue people for merely watching the video, but that "viewing it could be used as evidence as part of a wider investigation." That seems fairly questionable in many ways, even as we're used to UK officials stretching anti-terrorism laws in dangerous ways.
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Filed Under: beheading, debate, isis, james foley, legality, metropolitan police, uk


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  1. identicon
    casper, 15 Sep 2014 @ 8:05am

    Re: Violynne

    Since you offended me, I felt the need to reply.

    1. You claim that downloading and watching the video supports ISIL in their cause, in getting their message across. Even without the video's their message will get through: be affraid (think of 9/11; they will think of something to draw attention).

    Besides, the global media are the real distributors of the 'messages' amongst western people (making money of these horrors and providing governments free propaganda to fuel the warmachine against it).
    Radicals have their own sites/networks: they WILL distribute it amongst them.
    And yet again; both bush and Obama use the same flawed laws along with these videos to get people behind an intervention. These video's made people change their minds real quickly: WE MUST INTERVENE. A few months ago most Americans were tired of waging war in the middle east (so in fact they benefit our cause, making us hate them, leaving no room for: 'It'll all work out by itself').

    2. By watching these video's - I've seen all three of them - I am not correcting my own stupidity. I am watching theirs in disbelief. Humans have a need to see something before they will believe it. It has been this way since the dawn of time (the world is flat!!). I want to form my own opinion. A picture, or video explains more than a thousand words. Because everyone interprets. I wanted the raw information, which is still tweaked and edited by ISIL. And I can honestly say that the impact of watching these video's doesn't even come close to reading about it. Remember those planes crashing into the towers?
    I will never ever forget; forever seared into my mind. Just reading about it doesn't have the same effect.

    I have also watched north Koreans saying praise to their almighty leader. If you watch them you're not sure wether they are scared or not and/or got pressured into saying they love the leader. The messages spoken in the ISIL video's also present this tactic: the victims denounce America and they claim ISIL is the real victim, right before that same ISIL decapitates them.

    They don't actually show the beheading itself by the way... The screens fade to black after they start cutting throats and then fades in again, showing body and head displayed in a certain way. Let me again make it 100% clear that I am disgusted by these actions; they are appalling and a blemish on our humanity.

    3. If there is an accident or something like that I will never block driveways, or cause traffic jams, etc. since I am driving at that time. I won't even slow down: I'll see it on the news. But this is of such a greater magnitude. And besides, by watching it I am harming no one: I am not the one radicalising or sharing this video. I won't use it to beat up muslims at random in my own country (as they do with American and British people).
    So how am I making this situation worse?

    It also helps me in thanking god or whatever for my blessed life up till now.
    Watching this also puts things in perspective: I have no legitimate reason to be unhappy with my own life. I will live it to the fullest (although I am using it now to correct short sightedness, quite useless probably. But there always might be that one who does get influenced...)

    Anyway, your logic is flawed. So keep your offences to yourself: I dislike shallow people, who judge everyone, but aren't able to look at their own actions.

    In conclusion: Anyone who wants to watch this should be able to do so. It's like saying Marilyn Manson causes things like Columbine (i.e. shooting your own classmates). The people who perpetrate these actions are already well on their way before ever even hearing of these songs or video's. Their violence is caused by trauma, not music or video.
    Guns don't kill people: people kill people (though the presence of guns makes it harder to count to ten and hold your anger....).

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