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Graphic images from Texas mall shooting spread on social media: Media Miss


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MediaMiss™This story is a Media Miss by the right as only 0% of the coverage is from right leaning media.

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Within hours of the mass shooting that left nine people dead at a Texas outlet mall on Saturday, May 6, graphic images from the shooting had already spread on social media. Images and videos were not particularly difficult to find on Twitter, in part because they were shared from accounts that had paid to be verified on the platform.

“Graphic material often found its way onto Twitter in the past but it was more likely to be downranked and hard to find,” Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, said in a Twitter thread Saturday. Referencing one verified account, she added “the blue check account has a very graphic video attached to it and much higher engagement than responsible reporting.”

Traditionally, Twitter used a blue check mark to confirm that verified accounts belonged to actual people or entities. But in 2022, new CEO Elon Musk rolled out Twitter Blue, which lets anyone with $8 a month get a check mark. Twitter Blue subscribers can also edit tweets and get early access to new features.

The spread of graphic images from the mall shooting has revived scrutiny around how social media platforms handle graphic content from mass shootings. Social media platforms typically have policies that restrict sharing graphic content, with certain exceptions.

On Twitter, users are technically prohibited from sharing content that shows “gratuitous gore,” a category that includes “dismembered or mutilated humans.” Other forms of graphic media may be allowed, as long as the user marks their account as sensitive.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. The social media platform has cut much of its public relations team since Musk took over.

Straight Arrow News aims to identify when stories are being underreported on either side of the political aisle and media landscape. This story is a Media Miss for right-leaning outlets, with most sources reporting it being either left-leaning or center-oriented outlets, according to Ground.News.

Straight Arrow News has seen some of the graphic videos, but has not included links to them in this article, as the debate over sharing such violent content is ongoing.

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Videos and images of the violence in Texas this weekend spread quickly on Twitter.
The mall shooting in Allen left nine people dead – and the SUV crash at a Brownsville bus stop killed 8.
Some of them are shown in these videos appearing on people’s “for you” pages–reportedly, a child was among those shown.
Video from the mall shooting shows bloody bodies piled at the incident.
Twitter’s come under fire for not immediately removing the violent content.
This has all reignited the debate over social media’s responsibility in censoring violent content–particularly when it’s related to mass shootings.
It’s not a debate between the right and left.
Gun control supporters seem split on whether the public should be able to spread videos of gun violence and its aftermath.
Twitter’s critics here argue that the platform *should have* prevented the video from spreading, as it could potentially inflict further trauma on victims and their families, or risk inspiring copycat attacks.
Some users, writing “parents may not know their child has been murdered” and “They are posting dead children’s faces on Twitter.”
Yet, others supported sharing these videos…saying it’ll help people understand the significance of the incidents and gun violence in general…potentially, prompting them to act.
New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie tweeted: “Years ago I wrote that the public needs to see the results of our experiment in unlimited gun ownership and I still think that’s true.”
Twitter has a “sensitive media” policy, which restricts the ways in which people share media that’s graphic or includes violent or adult nudity and sexual behavior.
If people *do* share any of that, they’re supposed to mark their account as sensitive, so there’s a warning message on the content.
Twitter does not allow “media depicting *excessively* gory content, sexual violence and/or assault, bestiality or necrophilia.”
Twitter’s spokesperson hasn’t commented on the controversy.
At Straight Arrow News, we work to bring you a better understanding of these issues with context. We also cover a wide range of stories. *This story* is considered a Media Miss, as it’s been underreported by right-leaning outlets.