The Story You DON'T Want To Read

CRIMES

GQ (Australia) - - FRONT PAGE -

Jan­uary 23, 2002, Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Daniel Pearl was trav­el­ling to an in­ter­view in the city of Karachi when he was ab­ducted by a group of Pak­istani ter­ror­ists. His cap­tors be­lieved he was a spy work­ing for the US gov­ern­ment, and called for the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­lease all ter­ror sus­pects from Guan­tanamo Bay. “We give you one more day,” they wrote in an email sent to news or­gan­i­sa­tions. “If Amer­ica will not meet our de­mands we will kill Daniel.” Back in the US, Pearl’s wife and his edi­tor at The Wall Street Jour­nal both pleaded for his re­lease, and pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush met with Pak­istan’s then leader Pervez Mushar­raf. A month later, Pearl’s cap­tors re­leased a video of his be­head­ing. Thirty-three-year-old Dawn lives in Penn­syl­va­nia, United States. She saw re­ports of the jour­nal­ist’s killing and found her­self think­ing about it af­ter­wards. The bru­tal­ity of it both­ered her. This was be­fore the rise of ISIS, whose atroc­i­ties are now a rou­tine fea­ture of news re­ports around the world. At the time, ab­duc­tions and be­head­ings were al­most un­heard of – es­pe­cially those tar­get­ing Amer­i­cans. She found it hard to be­lieve some­one could do that to another per­son, in this day and age. But part of her also won­dered what some­thing like that would look like. The footage of Pearl’s fi­nal mo­ments runs for three min­utes and 36 sec­onds and is en­ti­tled The Slaugh­ter of the Spy-jour­nal­ist, the Jew Daniel Pearl. It shows him dis­cussing his Jewish her­itage and sym­pa­this­ing, un­der duress, with Pak­istani de­tainees held at Guan­tanamo. It also shows his mur­der. Sev­eral years af­ter the video was leaked on­line, Dawn’s cu­rios­ity got the bet­ter of her, and she de­cided to track it down. “Fi­nally,” she says, “I got up the nerve to look.”

Peo­ple have been drawn to the macabre for cen­turies. From spec­ta­tors cheer­ing glad­i­a­to­rial con­tests at the Ro­man Colos­seum to pub­lic hang­ings in me­dieval Britain or crim­i­nals fac­ing the guil­lo­tine in rev­o­lu­tion­ary France. The last pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion in Amer­ica took place in Ken­tucky in 1936, and drew an es­ti­mated crowd of 20,000 on­look­ers. The fas­ci­na­tion with death is not new. But, at least in Western cul­tures, the topic has grad­u­ally be­come a taboo. With de­vel­op­ments in med­i­cal sci­ence over the past cen­tury, death be­gan to be seen less as a nat­u­ral stage in the life cy­cle and more as a prob­lem to solve. Some­thing to fear. Such is the re­luc­tance Aus­tralians have for dis­cussing death, the Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion re­cently sug­gested it’s pre­vent­ing peo­ple from ad­e­quately pre­par­ing for the fi­nal years of life, in­clud­ing the plan­ning of end-of-life med­i­cal care or fu­neral ar­range­ments. We rarely talk about death, much less wit­ness it. While death has drifted from view in po­lite so­ci­ety, our fas­ci­na­tion with it has mi­grated to the place where so many cul­tural taboos flour­ish – on­line. In the mid-’90s, sev­eral web­sites be­gan to at­tract an au­di­ence of those who sought out the macabre, the most prom­i­nent of which was the now-dor­mant rot­ten.com. Billing it­self as “an ar­chive of dis­turb­ing il­lus­tra­tion”, it fea­tured mainly grim pho­tos of crime scenes, au­top­sies and other mor­bid ma­te­ri­als. But back then band­width was slow and any­thing too graphic was hard to ac­cess, es­pe­cially videos. In the past decade, that changed. In April 2008, Slo­vak Mark Marek launched Best Gore. Based in Canada, the web­site hosts the kind of im­agery and videos that most peo­ple would be un­aware even ex­isted on­line – un­cen­sored ter­ror­ist ex­e­cu­tions, grisly crime scenes, traf­fic ac­ci­dents and be­head­ings. In the years since it was founded, it’s quickly built an au­di­ence. “I don’t col­lect stats, but the site is more pop­u­lar than it’s ever been,” Marek tells GQ. “I’ve never spent a sin­gle penny on ad­ver­tis­ing, nor oth­er­wise driven in­ter­net surfers to our pages. Best Gore has grown, and con­tin­ues to grow, en­tirely and ex­clu­sively through word of mouth.” He es­ti­mates it cur­rently at­tracts up­wards of five mil­lion vis­i­tors a month. Far from a cel­e­bra­tion of gra­tu­itous vi­o­lence, the 42-year-old in­sists Best Gore, which calls it­self a ‘re­al­ity news web­site’, of­fers a pub­lic ser­vice al­low­ing peo­ple to see the world as it re­ally is. Many users speak of vis­it­ing the site to get an un­fil­tered view of the world. “If I read an ar­ti­cle on a pop­u­lar news web­site, I will find a post about the same event on Best Gore with more ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion that is not be­ing bias [sic] to­wards cer­tain po­lit­i­cal views,” one user ex­plained, over email. Some of this in­for­ma­tion in­cludes ar­ti­cles on what Marek calls the “Holo­caust racket”, and which often cite au­thors David Irv­ing and Ur­sula Haver­beck – both of whom have been con­victed of of­fences re­lat­ing to Holo­caust de­nial. He also refers to Holo­caust sur­vivors as “patho­log­i­cal liars”. But Marek sees him­self op­er­at­ing in a sim­i­lar vein to Wik­ileaks, whose slo­gan is ‘We open gov­ern­ments’, and claims sev­eral in­stances where users have ex­posed mis­in­for­ma­tion that went un­chal­lenged in the main­stream me­dia – a do­mes­tic gas ex­plo­sion that some sug­gested was the af­ter­math of an air raid by Bashar al As­sad’s forces in Syria; an earth­quake in Ti­bet that was passed off as ev­i­dence of Rus­sian atroc­i­ties in Eastern Ukraine. “Best Gore de­stroys con­spir­acy the­o­ries and fake news with ev­i­dence the pub­lic can see with their own eyes,” he says, adopt­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s favoured pe­jo­ra­tive for the main­stream me­dia. “I’m in­ter­ested in re­al­ity. I wish to un­der­stand the world the way it re­ally is – raw and un­cen­sored. Not fil­tered through a rose-coloured lens.” Be­sides show­ing the world’s true colours, Marek says he’s help­ing peo­ple avoid real-life tragedies. “Best Gore saves lives,” he states. “It pre­vents ac­ci­dents, makes peo­ple more re­spon­si­ble, less reck­less and more aware. There is zero doubt about that.” Re­search shows an es­ti­mated 70 per cent of peo­ple will ex­pe­ri­ence a trau­matic event in their life­time, ei­ther di­rectly or in­di­rectly, which es­sen­tially means wit­ness­ing a death, threat­ened death, se­ri­ous in­jury or sex­ual as­sault; or learn­ing that a close friend or rel­a­tive was ex­posed to it them­selves. If Marek is right, he could be help­ing a lot of peo­ple. “By post­ing the videos and pho­tos that we do, we help de­sen­si­tise peo­ple to gore, so when a real-life event in­volv­ing gore hap­pens in their lives, they won’t faint, they won’t freak out, they won’t throw up, they won’t make it worse,” says Marek. “They will re­main col­lected, much as a doc­tor is when he per­forms a gory surgery.” Marek also dis­putes sug­ges­tions that by host­ing hostage ex­e­cu­tions, the web­site of­fers ter­ror­ists a plat­form for their atroc­i­ties. “Do you think ISIS, af­ter set­ting up the scenes, ex­e­cut­ing the cap­tives, then spend­ing days in post-pro­duc­tion, would change their mind about pub­lish­ing the videos on the in­ter­net if Best Gore was shut down?” he asks.

“Do you think they would just cut their losses and keep the videos to them­selves? Of course not.” In­stead, he says, Best Gore pre­vents them from seek­ing out other av­enues to pub­li­cise their acts. De­spite the traf­fic the site re­ceives, Marek in­sists profit was never his mo­ti­va­tion. At­tract­ing ad­ver­tis­ers to a site like Best Gore is, as you might imag­ine, not easy. And though the web­site re­cently gained an in­come stream through ban­ners pro­mot­ing ex­ter­nal porn sites, Marek in­sists it costs more to run Best Gore than it gen­er­ates in rev­enue. “No com­pany with a rea­son­able bud­get would want to ad­ver­tise on a web­site that ex­poses po­lice bru­tal­ity, gov­ern­ment abuse of cit­i­zens, war prof­i­teer­ing and sim­i­lar anti-peo­ple ac­tiv­i­ties. So all I’m left with is porn. Worse yet, porn earns less to­day than it did five years ago.” To­day, Best Gore is just one of a hand­ful of so-called ‘shock sites’ that fea­ture graphic con­tent along sim­i­lar lines. One, Rig­ore­mor­tis, was launched last Au­gust by a group of for­mer Best Gore mem­bers who were dis­sat­is­fied with Marek’s han­dling of the site, and who dis­pute his claims about its prof­itabil­ity. (“We’re not mak­ing money,” one of Rig­ore­mor­tis’ mod­er­a­tors tells GQ. “We pay out of our own pocket to keep the site up.”) Another, Live Leak, grew to promi­nence af­ter a num­ber of con­tro­ver­sies. They in­clude the pub­li­ca­tion of a video of Sad­dam Hus­sein’s ex­e­cu­tion; an an­tiIs­lam short film by di­vi­sive Dutch politi­cian Geert Wilders; and footage of Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist James Fo­ley’s ex­e­cu­tion, which led to warn­ings from Bri­tish po­lice that shar­ing or even view­ing the video may be a ter­ror­ism of­fense in it­self. To­gether, these sites draw a large global fol­low­ing. Live Leak, for in­stance, is more pop­u­lar than the home­page for US GQ.

to pre­sume what kind of peo­ple might want to visit sites like Best Gore. But among the dozens of mem­bers we spoke to, it was hard to find a com­mon thread. They are men and women, moth­ers and fa­thers, peo­ple of all ages. Some are drawn to the site for a par­tic­u­lar kind of con­tent – footage of war zones, say – while oth­ers find them­selves con­sum­ing videos of all de­scrip­tions. There are vis­i­tors who keep their view­ing habits to them­selves, while oth­ers share it with friends or fam­ily. They also come from all cor­ners of the world, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia. The most pop­u­lar videos on Best Gore tend to be those pro­duced by Mex­i­can drug car­tels, which are often the most ex­trav­a­gant in their vi­o­lence, and ter­ror­ist groups like ISIS, which are ap­pre­ci­ated for their high pro­duc­tion val­ues. Most mem­bers, in­clud­ing Marek, can­not bear to watch an­i­mal cru­elty. Dawn can’t re­mem­ber how many be­head­ings she has seen since the Daniel Pearl video. Hun­dreds, maybe. But the Pearl footage al­ways stuck in her mind, even though parts were miss­ing. His cap­tors made a mis­take dur­ing the record­ing and were forced to ‘recre­ate’ scenes. “I re­mem­ber think­ing it was much worse than I ex­pected,” she says. “I imag­ined a swift sword to the neck, like in movies where a king might have some­one be­headed. But I felt sick to my stom­ach.” Af­ter watch­ing it, Dawn took a shower. “Now I visit ev­ery day,” she says. “For me, it was a grad­ual build up. I was not de­sen­si­tised at all be­fore, but noth­ing re­ally shocks me any­more, and I don’t take it with me. As soon as I shut my com­puter, I can go to bed.” Dawn thinks she’s prob­a­bly watched ev­ery avail­able ISIS video, but they don’t bother her so much. They’re so well pro­duced, they look like Hol­ly­wood movies – the blood al­most un­real. She some­times won­ders what the peo­ple in the videos are think­ing. The ex­e­cu­tion­ers and how they could do that to some­one. The vic­tims and how they re­act. How some re­main stoic, while oth­ers cry. She hopes that if it hap­pened to her, she wouldn’t give her cap­tors that sat­is­fac­tion. “A lot of peo­ple talk about [vis­it­ing Best Gore] be­cause it’s re­al­ity,” she says. “But I don’t think it’s re­al­ity. I’m not on guard all the time. We’re see­ing the worst of the world, but I don’t think the world is so bad.” Chris is 28 and lives in South Aus­tralia. He saw his first gory video in high school, when a friend showed him some grainy footage on an old flip phone. He would have been about 16 years old. But it wasn’t un­til more re­cently that he be­came a reg­u­lar Best Gore vis­i­tor and now goes there at least once a day. “There’s a bunch of [shock sites] now – but I would say Best Gore is at the fore­front of get­ting the ma­te­rial first and post­ing it,” he says, adding that gore is not sim­ply more abun­dant now, it’s also be­com­ing more ex­treme. “A lot of that stems from less-de­vel­oped coun­tries hav­ing ac­cess to so­cial me­dia and [smart] phones, places like Brazil and Thai­land. It’s def­i­nitely been ramped up a notch.” He says some peo­ple visit to push the lim­its of what they can han­dle, while oth­ers get a ‘rush’ from see­ing peo­ple be­ing harmed or even killed. But most, he of­fers, are just cu­ri­ous to see what death ac­tu­ally looks like. “Peo­ple think if some­one watches it, they must be a bit of a freak,” says Chris. “But for me, it’s just another news out­let. I like my con­tent to be raw and un­cen­sored. Some peo­ple find that very con­fronting, but bad shit hap­pens in the world. I feel like I re­spect life a lot more, now that I’ve seen how vi­o­lent death can be.” Grant, 46, grew up in coun­try NSW. Like Chris, he vis­its Best Gore ev­ery day. “I usu­ally check it in the morn­ing, be­fore work. Then maybe at lunchtime and then at night – at least a cou­ple of times a day, for sure.” He’s been fre­quent­ing the web­site for around two years and now finds he’s no longer both­ered by much of what he watches. “Gen­er­ally, I haven’t seen any­thing on there that has made me turn away. I wouldn’t say these things haunt me or give me vivid night­mares. Whether I’m de­sen­si­tis­ing my­self over time, I’m not sure,” he says. “But now I’ll open the ipad and I’ll find my­self eat­ing lunch, watch­ing some­thing that would turn most peo­ple’s stom­achs.” He be­lieves ex­pos­ing him­self to this con­tent has made him pre­pared for sit­u­a­tions most peo­ple might find dif­fi­cult to process. “I’ve al­ways been pretty good in emer­gency

sit­u­a­tions – I’ve had a few of those in­ci­dents and I al­ways seem to be able to han­dle them pretty re­spon­si­bly. So I don’t know whether in the long run my de­sen­si­ti­sa­tion would make me less in­clined to freak out.” Grant says the site also pro­vides a win­dow into places he might oth­er­wise never see. “I’m from a small coun­try town and I haven’t trav­elled to any Third World coun­tries,” he ex­plains. “It’s not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, but look­ing at what other cul­tures are like makes me ap­pre­ci­ate my life a hell of a lot more.” Jen is a 49-year-old sin­gle mother from Ore­gon. Two and a half years ago, she was leav­ing the doc­tor’s and was hit by a car and nearly died. She says view­ing videos on Best Gore took her mind away from the trauma of her ex­pe­ri­ence and made it feel less real. “Ev­ery sound I’d hear or ev­ery smell would re­mind me of the ac­ci­dent,” she says. “It has sort of al­lowed me to re­live the ac­ci­dent in a safer way than in my night­mares.” Jen has been vis­it­ing Best Gore for around six months and mainly watches ‘dash cam’ footage of ac­ci­dents, filmed from in­side cars. Some things she finds dif­fi­cult to watch – es­pe­cially any­thing in­volv­ing bru­tal­ity – but she says the site has opened her mind to un­der­stand­ing the way other peo­ple live. “It helps me through the ac­ci­dent, but it’s also show­ing me a dif­fer­ent side of peo­ple. We’re so closed-minded in our own coun­tries, but we’re all hu­man be­ings try­ing to be happy and sur­vive,” she says. “I’ve changed in a much more pos­i­tive way. I’m more aware of peo­ple, ac­ci­dents – es­pe­cially cars – and I’m more pa­tient in gen­eral. You see some of these images of peo­ple splat­tered or torn up and you just think we’re so frag­ile. We’re all just lit­tle ants that mean noth­ing in the big pic­ture.” there is lit­tle hard ev­i­dence about what draws peo­ple to watch ex­treme vi­o­lence. But if there’s a pat­tern to the view­ing habits of the peo­ple we spoke to, it’s that they fol­low a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. Some will seek out in­for­ma­tion on a par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent af­ter see­ing re­ports on the news, while oth­ers will be shown graphic footage by friends, or click on a link to some­thing they weren’t quite sure of. The first video is al­ways the hard­est to watch. Then days or even years will go by be­fore they can bring them­selves to watch another. Even­tu­ally drawn back, their tol­er­ance is now in­creased. From there, often peo­ple find them­selves un­will­ing to stop. Some find them­selves un­able to do so. Many of the peo­ple we spoke to talked of be­ing ‘ad­dicted’ to the videos. Pro­fes­sor Kim Felm­ing­ham is chair of clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy at The Univer­sity of Mel­bourne’s School of Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ences, and spe­cialises in fields of trauma and PTSD. She says those who view graphic vi­o­lence may fit a psy­cho­log­i­cal pat­tern. “Some peo­ple get an arousal re­sponse to watch­ing vi­o­lence, and if that con­tin­ues over time it may ac­tu­ally be en­gen­der­ing a de­sen­si­ti­sa­tion, where it al­most be­comes nor­malised – the goal­posts shift about what be­comes shock­ing,” says Pro­fes­sor Felm­ing­ham. “With that re­duced arousal, they seek out fur­ther vi­o­lence to get that arousal re­sponse. It’s a clas­sic model of ad­dic­tion. “If you’re talk­ing about peo­ple seek­ing out very ex­treme vi­o­lence on web­sites, you’re ven­tur­ing into the ter­ri­tory of an­ti­so­cial types of per­son­al­ity,” she adds. “They have lower lev­els of arousal and they are also more impulsive and sen­sa­tion seek­ing. Seek­ing out stronger stim­uli is a com­pen­sa­tion for that blunted emo­tional re­sponse.” Best Gore vis­i­tors speak of an adrenaline rush or of feel­ing ‘numb’ af­ter watch­ing videos. And while some ex­pressed con­cern about the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact of their view­ing habits, many wear their de­sen­si­ti­sa­tion as a badge of hon­our, in­sist­ing that view­ing these atroc­i­ties has been ben­e­fi­cial – not only in cop­ing with sit­u­a­tions where they were ex­posed to trauma them­selves, but in their broader out­look on life. They felt a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of be­ing alive and the priv­i­leges they en­joyed. “I ab­so­lutely re­gret watch­ing these videos, but it’s some­thing of an ad­dic­tion now,” says 32-year-old Robert from Texas, who has been vis­it­ing Best Gore for five years. He re­cently took a break from the site for sev­eral months, but lapsed back into the habit af­ter re­ports of ISIS ac­tiv­i­ties again piqued his in­ter­est. “Part

of me watches these things out of guilt. How could I have such an easy life, while oth­ers know noth­ing but pain and mis­ery? What makes me bet­ter than peo­ple in war-torn coun­tries or Third World slums who have to see this shit on a daily ba­sis? Noth­ing.” The mere pres­ence of sites like Best Gore raises a num­ber of ques­tions. Most no­tably: how is this le­gal? The in­ter­net has cre­ated a range of statu­tory is­sues that are yet to be fully re­solved. Most tra­di­tional me­dia, in­clud­ing news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion broad­cast­ers, are bound by in­ter­nal sets of guide­lines ad­dress­ing things such as vi­o­lence or racism. Be­yond spe­cific cases – cov­er­age of chil­dren in crime, or is­sues re­lat­ing to con­tempt of court – the ac­tual le­gal frame­work for gra­tu­itous vi­o­lence is lim­ited. “We have codes of con­duct, if you’re talk­ing about vi­o­lence in tele­vi­sion news and cur­rent af­fairs,” says Pro­fes­sor David Rolph, a me­dia law spe­cial­ist at The Univer­sity of Syd­ney. “But if you set up a blog and had gra­tu­itously vi­o­lent im­agery, then there aren’t re­ally press re­straints that can op­er­ate on you. The short an­swer is there aren’t ter­ri­bly many re­stric­tions, other than good taste.” Be­sides, web­sites based over­seas are vir­tu­ally im­mune to na­tional reg­u­la­tions, even if Aus­tralians are the ones view­ing that ma­te­rial. “As a gen­eral propo­si­tion, if some­one out­side Aus­tralia uploads ma­te­rial to a web­site that is ac­ces­si­ble in Aus­tralia, then our reg­u­la­tors and courts have very lim­ited ju­ris­dic­tion – usu­ally no ju­ris­dic­tion – over them,” adds Pro­fes­sor Rolph. Some might as­sume sites such as Best Gore are tucked away in a hid­den cor­ner of the so-called ‘dark web’, far re­moved from the un­sus­pect­ing gen­eral pub­lic. But they’re not hid­den at all. Even a cur­sory look through the right search terms will re­turn thou­sands of rel­e­vant re­sults. In won­der­ing why most peo­ple are un­aware these sites ex­ist, the sim­plest an­swer may be that not many peo­ple want to find them, and so they don’t. Just as the av­er­age per­son brows­ing the morn­ing head­lines prob­a­bly won’t in­ad­ver­tently land on a web­site stream­ing hard­core pornog­ra­phy. But with a few con­sid­ered key­strokes, it’s not hard to un­der­stand how they could find them­selves on such a page. Marek ar­gues that not only are un­sus­pect­ing peo­ple un­likely to find them­selves on his web­site, but vis­i­tors also know what they’re get­ting. “Best Gore makes it clear on ev­ery page that it is a web­site in­tended for ma­ture au­di­ences, and warns users that the con­tent within is graphic, shock­ing or oth­er­wise sen­si­tive in na­ture. The web­site’s URL alone sug­gests all one needs to know about the page,” says Marek. “The point I’m mak­ing is no­body ends up on Best Gore ex­cept by de­lib­er­ate phys­i­cal ac­tion of their own. And when they do, they will al­ways be aware that should they pro­ceed fur­ther, what they will see will be graphic.” But oc­ca­sion­ally, this con­tent es­capes the con­fines of niche web­sites and slips through to the wider web, usu­ally on so­cial me­dia. In fact, many of the videos they host – how­ever fleet­ingly – ac­tu­ally start off this way, as car­tels and ter­ror­ist groups reg­u­larly use so­cial me­dia plat­forms to pro­mote their cru­elty. They want to be seen and heard, af­ter all. In 2015, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment founded a new in­ter­net watch­dog, called the esafety Com­mis­sioner, mainly amid con­cerns around cy­ber bul­ly­ing. Re­search into on­line vi­o­lence is thin on the ground, but the body re­veals that 17 per cent of Aus­tralian teenagers have re­ported be­ing ex­posed to ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent’ on­line – an ad­mit­tedly broad cat­e­gory that cov­ers every­thing from vi­o­lent im­agery to coarse lan­guage. Still, the prospect of graphic vi­o­lence ap­pear­ing on your child’s so­cial me­dia feed presents a prob­lem. Com­pa­nies such as Face­book, Mi­crosoft and Youtube de­vote sig­nif­i­cant re­sources to iden­ti­fy­ing ma­te­rial that breaks their codes of con­duct, and re­mov­ing it. Both of these stages are jobs that re­quire not some com­pli­cated com­puter al­go­rithm, but ac­tual peo­ple. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Face­book asked not to re­veal too much about their meth­ods for re­mov­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial – peo­ple often at­tempt to game the sys­tem – but es­sen­tially, users flag any con­tent they think might be in­ap­pro­pri­ate, and then teams sort through this con­tent to iden­tify any ‘Com­mu­nity Stan­dards’ breaches. “We have a com­mu­nity of 1.86 bil­lion peo­ple that helps us en­force our stan­dards,” a Face­book rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­plained. “If some­one shares some­thing that is abu­sive, we want to hear about it and re­move it, so we make it very easy for peo­ple to re­port con­tent to us.” This op­er­ates as a triage sys­tem, whereby the most ob­jec­tion­able ma­te­rial is ad­dressed most quickly – such as child pornog­ra­phy or images re­ported by gov­ern­ment agen­cies – to en­sure it has lim­ited op­por­tu­nity to be seen by as few eyes as pos­si­ble. Face­book has teams all over the world that mon­i­tor con­tent around the clock in more than 40 lan­guages – these in­clude ex­perts in child safety, hate speech and counter-ter­ror­ism. “The vast ma­jor­ity of re­ports are re­viewed within 24 hours,” says the Face­book rep­re­sen­ta­tive. “Our global team re­views these re­ports rapidly and will re­move the con­tent if there is a vi­o­la­tion. We take down con­tent based on whether it vi­o­lates our Com­mu­nity Stan­dards, not based on how many times it’s re­ported.” May 29, 2012, a Chi­nese na­tional called Justin Lin was re­ported miss­ing. His friends hadn’t heard from him since he sent them a text mes­sage sev­eral days ear­lier, and their sub­se­quent calls and texts went com­pletely unan­swered. The 33-year-old had moved to Canada the pre­vi­ous year with the hopes of mak­ing a new life for him­self. He was study­ing engi­neer­ing and com­puter sci­ence in Mon­treal, and had a job at a lo­cal con­ve­nience store, where his boss said he was re­li­able and never missed a shift. So when Lin failed to show up one day, his friends knew some­thing must be wrong. The same day he was due to ar­rive at work, an 11-minute video was up­loaded to Best Gore. It was sim­ply ti­tled 1 Lu­natic 1 Ice Pick. Roger Renville, an Amer­i­can lawyer, stum­bled upon the video while brows­ing the web. Renville, who lives in Mon­tana, de­cided to call the po­lice in Toronto to re­port what he’d seen, but they ei­ther didn’t be­lieve him or dis­missed the footage as fake, and took no fur­ther ac­tion. Over the next three days, Renville again phoned po­lice in Canada, as well as tip-lines for the po­lice and FBI in Amer­ica. Still noth­ing. He had seen gory videos on the in­ter­net be­fore, but this one seemed dif­fer­ent. The dis­turb­ing footage showed a man later iden­ti­fied as for­mer porn star Luka Mag­notta com­mit­ting what ap­peared to be a grisly mur­der, but it was one that Renville hadn’t seen re­ported any­where be­fore. He won­dered if the mur­derer might still be out there. The grim footage shows not only Lim’s mur­der, but also his mu­ti­la­tion and dis­mem­ber­ment. But by the time Toronto po­lice iden­ti­fied Mag­notta as Lim’s killer, he had fled Mon­treal for Paris and then Ber­lin, where he was ar­rested in an in­ter­net cafe, brows­ing news re­ports of his crimes. In 2013, the then 32-year-old was charged with first-de­gree mur­der and a range of re­lated crimes, and was found guilty on all counts the fol­low­ing year.

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