Twitter Users Call for Blackout of James Foley Execution Video

Journalist James Foley - H 2014
AP Images

Journalist James Foley - H 2014

Should Twitter ban images showing the beheading of the U.S. journalist?

After a graphic video purporting to show the public beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley hit the web late on Tuesday, many have taken to the Internet to call on users to not share any images or footage of the execution.

The five-minute video, which has been shared widely on social media sites, shows a man clad entirely in black with his face covered standing next to a man who is apparently Foley. After delivering an anti-American rant to the camera — in English — the man appears to behead the journalist, who is thought to have been kidnapped by Islamic militants in 2012 while reporting in Syria. The executioner claims to be a member of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which the U.S. military has targeted in recent bombing attacks in Iraq.

A U.S. official told the Associated Press the video appeared to be authentic. Two other U.S. officials said the victim was Foley and Foley's family has confirmed he is the man being executed in the video.

Soon after the video was released, it ignited an online backlash, with many calling for a blackout of any images connected to the execution.

The Twitter hashtag #ISISMediaBlackout began trending shortly after the video's release and has logged nearly 7,000 tweets since, according to analytics firm Topsy.

The hashtag appears to have originated with a woman using the Twitter handle @LibyaLiberty, who argued sharing the video would only help ISIS.

A number of Twitter users have also countered the violent imagery surrounding the event by sharing more positive images of Foley and urging others to do the same.

Both Twitter and YouTube have moved to ban graphic images of the Foley video, taking down posts or suspending accounts that upload them. Zaid Benjamin, the Washington correspondent for Arabic-language radio station Radio Sawa who tweeted a screenshot from the video, said Twitter briefly suspended his account.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo confirmed the site was "actively suspending accounts" of users posting images related to the apparent Foley execution.

Twitter has also moved to suspend accounts of ISIS supporters. The nature of the Internet, however, means as copies of the video are taken down, others are quickly uploaded. Some have argued journalists and users should not self-censor the images, however brutal and upsetting.

Meanwhile, intelligence agencies are reportedly examining the video to try and identify the man who executed Foley. Many online have noted he is speaking with what appears to be an English accent.

As part of his rant, the man issued a threat to U.S. President Barack Obama that ISIS would kill a second U.S. journalist — Time magazine contributor Steven Sotloff, who has been missing since last August — unless U.S. air strikes stop.