As video footage of horrific Swiss deaths filters onto the web, an ethics expert has called on companies like Facebook and YouTube to advise users on what's acceptable.
Earlier this week, videos both of the mangled car containing 16-year-old crash victim Alessia D, and of a 13-year-old girl who took her life jumping from the top of department store Jelmoli, in Zurich, were posted on the net.
Mobile phones are increasingly being used to video horrific events, with the resultant clips often posted on YouTube.
According to German media ethicist, Rüdiger Funiok, the popularity of these macabre offerings stems partly from the public’s fascination with disasters and the desire to be the source of news and information, online news website 20 Minutes reported.
Such events excite the witnesses so much that they cannot resist the temptation to put the material online, Funiok said. The temptation is made all the harder to resist because of the ease of uploading clips on sites such as Facebook and YouTube.
Those recording the events are not as aware of the ethical boundaries as journalists might be, he said. They do not consider the rights of the individuals being filmed, nor, in the case of suicides, do they think about the risk of an imitation effect when making such material public.
Funiok believes that the larger companies like Facebook and YouTube should give guidance as to the kinds of material that can be posted. He also believes that more should be done in terms of educating people about the ethical issues surrounding the use of such media.