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Cleveland Murder Posted On Facebook Will 'Live In Perpetuity'


The killing shown on Facebook last weekend prompted a conversation on social media. The victim's grandson asked people to stop spreading the video and show some respect. Those who replied include our next guest. Chris Hurst has his own story. He's a former TV anchor whose girlfriend was a TV reporter as well as her camera man were killed on live TV. Mr. Hurst, welcome to the program.

CHRIS HURST: Sure, glad to be here.

INSKEEP: I'm sorry for your loss.

HURST: Thank you.

INSKEEP: How did you respond to that appeal the other day to stop spreading the video of the latest shooting?

HURST: Well, I told him that, unfortunately, I know that feeling and that I hoped that people would listen to his plea more than they listened to mine and to Alison's. The reality is is that this video will get shared. It will continue to get shared. It will live online in perpetuity for people to look at whenever they wish.

INSKEEP: What was your experience when Alison Parker and Adam Ward were gunned down on live TV?

HURST: Well, as it relates to the video of it remaining online, it was taken down from Twitter fairly quickly. But we soon realized that it was going to stay on websites that promote executions, beheadings in the Middle East and show carnage and car accidents and murders that are also captured on video. So there are websites out there that Alison's death and I'm sure this latest murder in Ohio will remain.

INSKEEP: And you point out correctly that you can't really erase something from the internet once it's out there, which raises a question, what do you want social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter to do when these events are happening in real time?

HURST: I think it's absolutely terrible that this murder was put into people's news feeds at all. It sounds just unbelievable to say that. But their response time, I think, is really beside the point because the video will be online forever on other websites that promote gore, that promote violence. And there's nothing you can do to remove those videos because they're seen as protected by the First Amendment and because these incidents become public. They're of a public nature.

INSKEEP: Is it just up to us then? We need to be a little more moral, a little more responsible?

HURST: That's really what I think it comes down to is that we continue to feed individuals' desire to become infamous. Alison and Adam were killed by a demonstrative act of gun violence. So are school shootings and so now seem to be this new phenomenon of wanting to broadcast murders live for attention and to get somebody to listen to the perpetrator. And we, I think, as a society need to say, what are we going to decide to pay attention to, the people who want to commit harm or the people who are harmed?

INSKEEP: I want people to know that you've left TV news since this incident. You're now running for a seat in Virginia's House of Delegates, the state legislature, as a Democrat. Is there a role for government in all this?

HURST: I think it's tough. And I'm not sure it's at the state level because we're talking about websites that go international and are sometimes hosted internationally. You know, I didn't decide to run for public office to try to change the laws as they relate to this proximate issue. I do think, though, that we need to decide maybe at a higher level what really constitutes as something that should be protected as free speech. Is you recording you killing somebody else, is that considered free speech? I don't necessarily know the answer to that.

But it's really still very difficult for me to understand that this is an actual conversation we're having in our country today.

INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Hurst, thanks for joining the conversation. I very much appreciate it.

HURST: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's former TV anchor Chris Hurst. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.