YouTube says it won't remove a video of the mass shooting in Boulder on Monday, despite the fact that it shows bodies on the ground, because it has documentary or journalistic value.
The lengthy video, shot by a man who calls himself a citizen journalist who is apparently well known to Boulder police, begins as the shooting is still in progress, with footage just inside the front door of the King Soopers market. The man who shot the video, Dean Schiller, can be heard yelling about the situation, and pointing to bodies on the ground both in the parking lot outside the store and inside the store itself. At one point, shots can be heard.
Schiller went on filming from the parking lot for three hours, and at one point he was asked to get behind some yellow police tape and can be heard screaming at officers that he's a journalist.
YouTube has put the video behind a warning label about its graphic content, and parts of the video have also been posted as clips by other channels, including one that's identified as being controlled by the Chinese government.
"Violent content intended to shock or disgust viewers and hate speech are not allowed on YouTube, and as a result we have removed a number of videos for violating our policies," says YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez, in a statement. "We do allow certain violent or graphic content with sufficient news or documentary context, and so we’ve applied an age restriction to this particular content. We will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation."
As VICE noted about the video, the comment section was almost worse than the video while Schiller live-streamed.
“The comments section was wild with speculation about potential suspects, as well as anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories including that the attack was a false flag,” said Jordan Wildon, a researcher who tracks far-right extremists, speaking to VICE News. “These were fueled by what was shown on-stream.”
Unlike the live stream video of the 2019 mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, shot by the shooter himself, YouTube says that it considered factors in allowing Schiller's video to remain up like whether or not it provided context, and whether or not it celebrated the violence.
It was Schiller's video that contained widely seen footage of the shooting suspect, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, being escorted out of the store shirtless with a bloody leg.
The video raises a host of questions about what counts as journalistic content, and about the motivations and ethics of the videographer himself. The Denver Gazette criticized Schiller for revealing police tactics from outside the store, which they said the shooter could have been watching on a cellphone from inside.
As the Gazette notes, Schiller is well-known to the Boulder police, and he actually sued the city of Boulder in 2019 after he was arrested for filming at the county jail.
In the video he can be heard saying "fuck off" to police who were trying to move him, and "“I’m a journalist, don’t yell at me, I’m watching you, I’ll do what I want."
Also, as Vice notes, when a commenter in the livestream chat questioned Schiller's journalistic credentials, Schiller replied, saying, "Who says I’m not a journalist? Is there a school for journalists?"
Schiller was ultimately removed from the scene by Boulder police, but he continued filming as he drove to a second location where a shooting had been reported.
He filmed continuously until his phone battery ran out, and, as Vice notes, didn't sign off without telling viewers to like the video and subscribe to his channel.