Graphic images of Texas mall shooting spread on Twitter, reigniting debate over how much to share | CNN Business
Just hours after Saturday’s mass shooting at a Texas mall, some Twitter users shared gruesome images of bloodied bodies, allegedly from the crime scene. At least one image appeared to be of a child.
Those images were harder to avoid on the platform, some users said, in part because they were shared from accounts that had paid to be verified, an option introduced under owner Elon Musk that can increase the visibility of tweets from a user
“Graphic material often found its way onto Twitter in the past, but it was more likely to be reduced and difficult to find,” Emily Bell, director of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said in a tweet. “The new messed up system seems to prioritize these vile accounts and feature stuff at the top of the channel. Horrible.”
Jennifer Mascia, a CNN contributor and senior news writer for The Trace, a nonprofit journalism outlet dedicated to gun-related news, said the images “were inevitable.” He added: “I was amazed that that video and those images stayed on Twitter as long as they did… In a different era of Twitter, they wouldn’t have circulated, they would have been taken down immediately.”
Twitter, which has cut much of its PR team, did not respond to a request for comment.
The apparent dissemination of these images has reignited scrutiny over how social media platforms handle graphic content from mass shootings. Social media platforms usually have policies that restrict the sharing of graphic content, with certain exceptions. On Twitter, for example, users are technically prohibited from sharing content that shows “gratuitous gore,” a category that includes “dismembered or mutilated humans.” Other forms of graphic support may be allowed, as long as the user marks their account as sensitive.
But it has also reignited a broader debate about the potential value of sharing graphic images in shaping public discourse at a time when mass shootings occur regularly in the United States.
There have been 202 mass shootings in the United States in the first five months of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, compared to 647 mass shootings in 2022. The nonprofit and CNN define mass shootings such as those in which four or more people are shot. , excluding the shooter.
Saturday’s attack was the second deadliest American mass shooting of the year so far. Eight people were killed and at least seven others were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a mall in Allen, Texas, according to local authorities.
In an interview with CNN affiliate KTVT on Sunday, Steven Spainhouer, an Army veteran and former police officer who helped administer first aid at the scene, described the horror he found. “The first girl I approached … I felt the pulse, I pulled my head to the side and she had no face,” he said.
But in a tweet On Saturday night, Spainhouer slammed a photo of the mall being shared on social media. “I don’t want to see the photo floating around social media, taken while I was calling 911 and trying to render aid at the Allen Outlets,” he wrote. “The least you could do is help, not take pictures of people on death’s door.”
Mascia, for her part, said she was “surprised at how many people” debated the merits of posting these images. Some, he said, may not have wanted to post the images themselves, but also thought “maybe it’s time we talk about this.”
The decision to show the public gruesome images of violent acts goes back decades in the United States. In 1955, a picture of a murdered black teenager was published in Jet Magazine at the behest of his mother.
This disturbing image of Emmett Till’s mutilated body was etched in the minds of many as an enduring image of the era’s racist violence, with many linking the release of the image to helping galvanize Americans to unite – to the civil rights movement.
More recently, the debate resurfaced as Americans reacted with shock and horror to the deadly school shooting that took place less than a year ago in Uvalde, Texas.
“It’s time, with the permission of a surviving parent, to show what a sacrificed 7-year-old looks like,” said David Boardman, dean of Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication. he tweeted in the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that left nineteen children and two adults dead.
Boardmen added in his tweet at the time that he “couldn’t have imagined saying this years ago”, but argued that by showing the public these images, “maybe only then will we find the courage for more than thoughts and prayers.