Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dogging the Internet Catfight

In the twenty-four hour news cycle, this exploitative story about "3 Girls Arrested in Videotaped Beating" soon morphed into a news item with eight mugshots to illustrate how teenaged girls beat another girl into unconsciousness and then kept attacking her on camera while two boys stood guard outside.

Always reflective Fox News opined that the "Videotape of Teen Beating Raised Questions." Even though cable news stations showed the video over and over, they were quick to blame computer online service providers for the objectionable content that they counted upon to garner ratings.

CNN spokeswoman Barbara Levin said the cable news network has tried to place the video in the proper context.

"In reporting the story, we have gone to great lengths to explain that these young women face severe consequences for their actions, and in fact may be facing harsher sentencing because the videotape provides evidence of the nature of the attacks," she said in a statement.

YouTube, owned by Google Inc., declined to comment on the video, but said its general policies call for the removal of clips that show someone getting "hurt, attacked or humiliated."

From a legal standpoint, YouTube and other online service providers are largely exempt from liability because of a 1996 anti-pornography law. One provision says Internet service providers are not considered publishers simply because they retransmit information provided by their users or other sources.

Federal courts have applied that broadly to cover not just Internet access providers, but also video-sharing sites, message boards and other online services.

As many reporters noted, there was also a social networking connection, since the alleged cause for the beating was the young victim's supposedly objectionable communicative conduct on MySpace and in text messages. Although Salon magazine talks about the ridiculousness of this pseudo-moralism in "Don't blame YouTube, MySpace for teen beating video," Dr. Phil has apparently arranged to parade some of the girls before a television audience, so the spectacle can go on.

It's true that there is an online culture in the U.K. around "happy slapping" that takes pride in posting cell phone images of brutalized strangers, but that behavior lacks the salacious softcore porn that the "news" sells so well. Too bad that they don't show footage of citizens being brutalized in Burma or Egypt or other sites of documentary interest to human rights activists. Those online videos might actually change behavior.

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Anonymous catfightreport said...

I actually enjoy catfights, and run a site that promotes them.

However, what happened with the young girls was distasteful, and I doubt many dispute that.

But, blaming websites like youtube and myspace is not the solution.

Fighting, and/or bullying, has been around since the beginning of time, and it's incredible that Fox, or others, will feign shock over something like this happening.

The truth of the matter, is that they are participating in the craze just like everyone else.

They cashed in, and so did Doctor Phil.

Human beings, like it or hate it, have loved fighting since the days of Rome, and probably before that.

Fox has no moral high ground, they just like to point fingers.

11:04 PM  

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