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Slain Journalist's Father Files FTC Complaint Against YouTube

Andy Parker, whose daughter, journalist Alison Parker, was murdered during a live news broadcast on WDBJ TV Roanoke. Va., back in August 2015, is still trying to get that horrific video off-line. 

Parker filed a complaint against YouTube at the FCC this week, alleging YouTube and parent, Google, violated their terms of service, which the FTC could pursue under its authority to prevent false or deceptive conduct. The complaint includes blurred but graphic screen grabs of violent online content. 

Related: Andy Parker Keynotes Gun Violence Summit 

Parker, who got help with the filing from the Civil Rights Clinic of the Georgetown University Law Center, argues that YouTube violates those terms "by hosting videos that graphically depict people being murdered, capitalizing on their final moments for pure shock value and entertainment," even as it proclaims that violence is not allowed. 

The complaint says that the terms are materially deceptive because if people knew that content was allowed to proliferate they would not use the site. 

Specifically, "videos of [Parker's] daughter’s murder that were uploaded on the day of her death—nearly five years ago—and have been reported repeatedly since then--remain on the site to this day," the complaint alleges. 

Parker is also pushing for legislation to modify or eliminate social media sites' Sec. 230 immunity from liability for third-party postings like the video of Parker's daughter's murder that he says continues to have a home on YouTube years after the horrific slaying. 

Sec. 230 of the Communications Decency Act holds that no web site is the publisher of third party content on the site, and so is not liable for that content. 

Parker told B&C he has been meeting with legislators about the problems with Sec. 230 immunity and is hopeful Congress can take action. He also appeared on CNN to talk about his complaint.

Related: Attorney General Barr Says Sec. 230 May Need Recalibration 

There is bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill over whether former garage-startup edge platforms, now some of the most powerful companies on the planet, should retain that immunity, including from legislators as different as Ron Wyden (R-Ore.), who created Sec. 230, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), concerned edge platforms are using that immunity to censor conservative speech with impunity. 

"Our Community Guidelines are designed to protect the YouTube community, including those affected by tragedies," said a YouTube spokesperson. "We specifically prohibit videos that aim to shock with violence, or accuse victims of public violent events of being part of a hoax. We rigorously enforce these policies using a combination of machine learning technology and human review and over the last few years, we’ve removed thousands of copies of this video for violating our policies. We will continue to stay vigilant and improve our policy enforcement.”

According to YouTube, it removed removed over 1.3 million videos for violating its violence or graphic content policies in third-quarter 2019 alone.

"Why can't you take down something that has been flagged over and over," Parker said in response, including one video of his daughter's murder that has over 800,000 views.