My daughter was murdered on camera. This is why I made the video into an NFT

I’ve been at war with Facebook and YouTube, who profit from this traumatic video circulating — and I’ve had to get creative

Andy Parker
Monday 28 February 2022 16:17 GMT
Reporter Alison Parker poses on vacation with her father, Andy - who is fighting social media giants to take down videos of her murder
Reporter Alison Parker poses on vacation with her father, Andy - who is fighting social media giants to take down videos of her murder (Parker Family)

My daughter, journalist Alison Parker, was murdered on live television along with her cameraman Adam Ward while they were reporting on a story for the local news station where they worked in 2015. Their killer was a disgruntled former employee of the station, WDBJ7.

The video of their murder was captured by the killer’s GoPro as well as Adam’s live camera feed to the station. That horrific content, which I’ve managed to avoid watching, has been uploaded to Facebook and YouTube thousands of times and has been seen by millions — some willingly and some inadvertently. It is traumatic for me and my family knowing it’s out there, and it’s traumatic viewing for anyone who has actually seen it.

Even worse, these platforms monetize and profit from my daughter’s murder. I’ve known it for years and Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, confirmed it in her testimony before Congress last fall.

No one should be subjected to this. Nor should they be exposed to other graphic content, harassment and bullying, pornography and illegal sales of guns and drugs online. Yet thanks to Section 230, a law passed by Congress in 1996, Facebook/Instagram and Google/YouTube have total immunity for the content they host. Even my complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission asserting these platforms are violating their own terms of service have been met with deaf ears. Facebook and Google do what they do because they can.

However, there is one exception. My Georgetown Civil Rights Law Clinic legal team and I decided the next approach to punish these platforms would be to use what I call the “Al Capone prosecution strategy”. If you can’t get ‘em on the big stuff, you nail them on the smaller stuff. In this case, it’s copyright violation.

We spent the last two years imploring Gray Television, the media company who bought WDBJ7 and the rights that came with Alison’s murder video, to grant us a co-copyright so that we could pursue our legal strategy. They have flatly refused, for reasons they have yet to share with us or the media at large. Instead of doing the right and decent thing, they have been complicit in protecting Facebook and Google.

Absent a copyright, the only alternative we could think of was to create an NFT or Non Fungible Token — not to sell, as some have done with art and music, but to use as a substitute in lieu of a copyright against these platforms. The situation calls for an extreme and creative approach because the murder image is beyond the control of our family.

It’s the proverbial Hail Mary. We’re in uncharted waters and the odds may be slim that this unconventional approach will work. But as Gray, Facebook and Google are keenly aware, giving up is not an option for me.

Ultimately, change must come through legislation. That’s why I decided to run for Congress, so I can take this fight to the place where it can one day be fixed. For all the wonderful things social media has done for society, it has created an underbelly that exposes everyone to horrific content, pornography, illegal gun and drug sales, bullying and harassment — and, of course, misinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories. I’m in this fight not just for me, but for thousands of other families who have suffered in similar fashion and those who will be targeted in the future. Fixing the internet isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue — it’s an American issue, an issue for every civilized society in the world. If we don’t fix social media, it will destroy our social fabric.

I’ve tried to honor Alison through action, and I sincerely believe we will ultimately prevail. This is what Alison would expect me to do. Candidates for Congress don’t usually have running mates. But I do, and she’ll be with me every step of the way.

Andy Parker is a candidate for 5th Congressional District in Virginia. He is the author of “For Alison: The Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father’s Fight for Gun Safety”

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