Even as television news anchors explained why they would no longer show the videos made by suspected Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho, his diatribe was rapidly being uploaded to YouTube.com.
There, hundreds of versions of Cho’s video and news coverage of it can be found. On Friday, the three most-watched YouTube videos featured Cho.
Most news outlets stopped showing the videos by Thursday, in part due to public pressure and concerns that the images could incite copycat killers.
But they have been granted new life on the Internet, where younger viewers have flocked in recent years to catch homemade videos and other clips. Now they can see into the eyes of a young man many have called a monster.
“Those seeking the video online must know in their own heart why they need to watch it again,” said Andrew Finlayson, news director for Chicago’s WFLD, a Fox affiliate, which stopped airing the video on Thursday. “I personally hope it is not for amusement but instead to reflect on how we can prevent this from happening again.”
One video posted Thursday on YouTube has been viewed more than 700,000 times. Furthermore, that video and the hundreds like them are being linked to blogs, MySpace profile pages and e-mailed across the Web. Hence, millions of people could still be watching Cho’s disturbing actions even as mainstream media have stopped showing them.
YouTube is not a media outlet but it does have a responsibility, said Bob Steele, the values scholar for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism think tank.
“I’m not suggesting they should not allow the video (on YouTube), but they should consider the ramifications of the video being on there,” he said.