Footage from New Zealand attack goes mostly unaired by news outlets

Footage from New Zealand attack goes mostly unaired by news outlets
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Most major news outlets declined to publish video from the suspect in Friday's mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand, while a handful of British tabloids and sites published edited clips before later removing them.

New Zealand Police had requested that media outlets refrain from publishing any of the shooter's materials, including a 17-minute video live-streamed online during the attack that quickly spread on social media.

Platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit all worked to remove the video, though they faced difficulty in implementing a blanket ban and the footage kept reappearing and disappearing online.

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The Daily Mail, a popular publication in the United Kingdom, initially posted a story on the shooting that showed an edited version of the terrorist’s video in which he could be seen approaching one of the mosques with his weapon drawn.

Another story featured a PDF file of the accused gunman's entire 74-page manifesto, which included a host of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric. That file has since been deleted and the video was removed.

"As with all incidents of terror, news organisations have to strike the right balance between showing the public what has happened — and why — and playing into the terrorists’ hands," a spokesperson for The Daily Mail told The Hill.

"In common with many other news organisations around the world, MailOnline carried for a time a very short excerpt from beginning of the Christchurch mosque gunman’s video that showed no violence or victims. On further reflection, we decided to remove it some hours ago."

The Sun, another tabloid, also showed edited footage of the shooter’s video, defending its decision by saying any parts of the clip explicitly showing violence were cut out.

Meanwhile, The Daily Mirror was forced to take down a story after it published parts of the shooter’s video, including clips where he is seen shooting at people on the street. 

Sky News also initially aired parts of the attacker’s video on its broadcast, only to have its entire show taken down and replaced with Fox Sports. The broadcast was still aired in Australia since Sky Australia is an independent company.

"We made the decision to remove Sky News Australia from our platform while disturbing footage of the shootings was being shown to avoid causing any distress to our viewers," a Sky New Zealand spokesperson told the New Zealand Herald.

Sky News and The Sun did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.

Friday's attack and the subsequent footage renewed a challenge for many media outlets balancing coverage of the shooting that left 49 people dead with a desire not to glorify the perpetrator of a high-profile attack.

"We are seeing, even on social media, a backlash," Jaclyn Schildkraut, an associate professor at the State University of New York at Oswego who has researched mass shootings, told NBC News.

"People don't want to see it. There have been some news agencies that have shown restraint, and even now, I haven't seen the shooter's name out as much — but this is still unfolding."

Social media giants have themselves faced new criticism in the wake of the attack after they struggled to take down and block footage of the gunman shooting worshippers. The video appeared to have been taken with a camera helmet.

"Failing to take these videos down immediately and prevent others being uploaded is a failure of decency," Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "I will be writing to social media companies to ask how, in this hour of international tragedy, they failed the victims of this attack and all platform users so lamentably.

"I will also be speaking to my Conservative counterparts in government to discuss how we can act together in order to deal with the unaccountable wickedness of the Silicon Valley oligarchs."