There is a forum thread on the site Reddit called Watch People Die. Although the nature of this thread seems self-explanatory, many questions remain on the ethical and legal side of sites such as these.
The forum in itself comprises of various videos uploaded by users of people’s deaths. It is assumed that these are real videos. Some are shot by mobiles, CCTV or even official footage. Most are graphic and gruesome in nature.
There is a section where you can search for certain types of videos, clearly laid out for your viewing pleasure.
What is perhaps more harrowing are the strict guidelines and rules for video submissions. The first rule is that ‘there must be a person – not an animal – actually dying in the link.’ The moderators can and will remove posts which do not fit their guidelines.
What are the current implications for viewers in Ireland?
“European directives and regulations transposed into Irish law require that Internet access services are provided without any monitoring of what people are accessing by ISPs,” says Paul Durrant, chief executive of the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland. ”This also applies to state authorities, who require a valid court order or warrant relating to specific subscriber connections to access user records or system logs.”
So content such as this forum are not currently illegal. Should it be?
“There are only two types of content where the content is, in itself, illegal, and users should not deliberately engage with or try to find such material online,” Durrant explains. “These are child pornography, which is illegal to knowingly obtain and possess, and incitement to hatred, which is only illegal to publish or distribute.”
Legality aside, then, what exactly are the intentions of a forum such as this, and more importantly the purposes of those who view the content? While it is in human nature to be curious, some requests for certain videos posted by users often leave a sense of bewilderment: Why on earth would someone, for example, request a video containing flaying?
One wonders whether there is an extreme sexual fetish at play with some users. Considering that some videos feature children it then brings us to the question of whether this forum at times crosses the line into an extreme version of child pornography.
Niall Colgan from Hotline.ie, a site where users can report illegal material on the internet, explains, unsurprisingly, that the net ‘is extremely difficult to regulate’. As technology advances, this difficulty multiplies.
What is left is then the idea of our rights to expression, and freedom to search whatever we feel fitting on the internet. The reddit site is a well-known one, but the forum might not be. There is a warning before you enter the forum asking if you are over eighteen years old, explicitly stating that it has ‘adult content’.
Should sites like these stay untouched or should we be actively trying to take them down?
– Natasha Reis