Restraint over sharing Virginia shooting video urged

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The online reaction spread quickly as expected after a killer posted video of his attack on two former co-workers in the midst of a live news broadcast.

Yet the social media response after Wednesday’s killings in Virginia, which at first seemed perfectly tailored to the internet’s instant-sharing culture, did not go entirely viral.

Shocked Twitter and Facebook users urged others not to click on, retweet or otherwise circulate the recording made by Vester Lee Flanagan that he posted before he died hours later from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward from WDBJ-TV in Virginia were killed.

Some of the strongest requests for restraint came from those close to the victims.

“Our WDBJ crew was literally ambushed this morning. PLEASE DO NOT share, or post the video,” tweeted Brent Watts, the TV station’s meteorologist.

That request was retweeted more than 2,000 times in the hours that followed, and the sentiment spread far further.

“Please if you see video of the shooting posted on FB or anywhere, take a stand,” tweeted former professional hockey goalie and NHL coach Corey Hirsch. “Do not watch or share.”

Many Facebook and Twitter users on the West Coast who woke up learn of the story — and of the fact it was captured on video by the gunman — were filled with dread, and worried they might not be able to avoid seeing it on their feeds.

They were pleasantly surprised at its absence.

“I find most people in my feed have spoken against watching the footage,” said Jessica Ward-Ramirez of Los Angeles.

Along with their admonitions, some suggested alternative video and images to share. One popular option was video of the victims’ news colleagues paying tribute to them on the air. Another was a joyful selfie taken by the victims.

It was far from the first time masses of users avoided recirculating graphic online video. In recent years most have stayed far away from sharing Islamic State militants’ beheading videos.

But some social media users said they were grateful that there appears to have been a moment of mass restraint.

“I don’t know if that means there’s been a turning point,” Joseph Vasquez said after seeing a Facebook feed that was free of the video all day. “I hope so.”

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