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Video of Russian ambassador’s fatal shooting tests Twitter’s policy on “gratuitous images of death”

A number of Twitter users complained today when they came across a graphic video showing the death of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey G. Karlov, who was shot in the back as he gave a speech at an art gallery in Ankara. As news of the shooting broke, video footage of the incident—which captured Karlov’s pained expressions as the shots fired—spread rapidly on Twitter. In many cases, users were shocked to discover the video autoplaying in their feeds. 

Twitter’s policies on graphic content are somewhat vague, but the social network does not explicitly prohibit the sharing of violent images. According to its Twitter Rules page, some forms of graphic content may be permitted it tweets, but users can report such content as “sensitive media.” In those cases, Twitter is then supposed to show a warning label to users by default, but it’s unclear if the Karlov video meets the threshold for a label. 

We reached out to Twitter for more information and will update when we hear back. According to Twitter’s policy: “When content crosses the line into gratuitous images of death, Twitter may ask that you remove the content out of respect for the deceased.”CZ