THE BLOG

The Police Are Right to Say Watching James Foley Video an Offence, as Should Be Watching All Films Showing Torture and Death

21/08/2014 15:28 BST | Updated 21/10/2014 10:59 BST

You could be arrested in the UK under terrorism legislation if you view or share the video of James Foley's murder, Scotland Yard has said. Meanwhile Twitter and YouTube have both been active in seeking to remove all traces of the terrible footage from the web.

Dozens of Twitter accounts that published the graphic footage have been suspended. YouTube has removed several copies of the video, first uploaded on Tuesday night.

The Metropolitan Police has made it clear: "Viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation."

The reaction of the police and those who run social media companies is admirable. There is no reason to watch a defenceless man being brutally beheaded. This written description alone should be enough to tell you how cruel and cowardly his murders were and how much pain his family must be feeling.

Not only should James Foley's recorded death be expunged, as much as possible, from social media but other deaths should be too. Masked killers from the Islamic State have uploaded hundreds of videos of their horrific murders. These videos of less well-known victims should also be censored and deleted.

And it is not just the deaths of people at the hands of Islamic terrorists that should be removed. The web is filled with pornographic images of slaughter and murder. Hundreds of videos of murders in Mexico and Central America proliferate on the web. It's a filmed legacy of the fact that the region has seen a shocking 99% rise in homicides in the last decade.

At the forefront of this brutality are the Los Zetas crime syndicate - most renowned for a torture called "el guiso" (the stew), where victims are videoed being dumped into giant kettles and boiled alive with water, kerosene or gasoline. The gang has cartel members that boast nicknames like 'Friend Killer' and 'Tony the Tormentor.'

Los Zetas has turned to video and social media to capture their violent acts, as have many drug-running gangs. Last statements given by tied or kneeling victims are recorded seconds before they are executed with a shot to the head. Other videos exist of men being beheaded or hanged.

These videos act as a horrific testimonial to the power of the cartels and the impunity with which they operate. They bear titles such as: "3 Men Skinned Alive & Beheaded By A Drug Cartel"; or "Man Is Chain-sawed To Pieces & Left In A Soup Pot With Vegetables". I have not watched these as I do not need to; their descriptions are sufficient.

The use of social media to promote torture as a form of terror is a relatively new phenomenon. This new way of communicating, outside the editorial control of state-owned media networks, fuels the use of torture in itself. Murderers know that crimes which had previously been hidden can now be viewed worldwide - and they serve a horrific purpose in ramming home the terrorists' or cartels' messages of bloody power.

If the Metropolitan Police and social media giants were to be consistent in their rightful condemnation of the proliferation of the James Foley video, they should also ensure that websites that regularly host these torture-film deaths, like bestgore.com, are also banned.

We too should refrain from any dark impulse to watch these things. Each click on a video spurs a future killer's actions - knowing they will have an impact with their violent ways.

When a terrorist torturer films a murder what they are doing is as despicable as a snuff video or a filmed act of pedophilia. We condemn these videos outright, and condemn those who view them. So why not the former?