3 September 2014
When used correctly and with sensitivity to others, the internet can be an amazing tool. However, I think there have been several examples of its misuse, especially in the wake of James Foley’s tragic death in Syria last month. It raises a difficult moral debate. Whilst there’s a need to know what’s happening in the world and to know what we’re being told is real, I don’t necessarily think you need to see the gory details of someone’s death to empathise.
So, what should we do? There have been calls for social media sites to introduce safeguards to stop their users from stumbling across explicit images, with suggestions including cover photos for images that may upset or disturb people.
I think it sounds like a step in the right direction, but how would they do it? Would it be a policing issue on the part of the sites themselves or simply a case of someone seeing an image and reporting it as graphic? You could also argue that some images need to be seen; that’s the reason for photojournalism, after all. Yet, is it fair that the families and friends of victims such as James Foley should be exposed to images of their loved ones in upsetting situations? There are some things that, ethically, you could argue we don’t need to see.
Personally, I’m all for finding a way to stop something like this happening because these days children are using social media. I think that’s the be all and end all here. As adults, we can suffer it and get on with our lives, but children are exploring and it’s their formative years. Graphic images are not what we should be exposing them to, no matter what the circumstances are. The experience of childhood is something you can never get back. I think it’s our job as adults to protect that.