The Molestation Video That Wasn’t: Ethics of Online Media
Leading digital platforms put out a video of an alleged molestation of a minor.
On Monday, September 7, two well known and well established Indian websites – Scoopwhoop and Logical Indian – put out a video of what appeared to be a child being molested in a mall. Logical Indian said that it received the story from someone called Disha Sharma, who in turn had received it from someone else.
The video was submitted by Dishha Sharma, who got the video from a third person. She wants to alert the parents about the kind of sexual perverts lurking in our cities.
— The Logical Indian
The post in Logical Indian claims that the man allegedly molested the child while the latter was taking a ride on a toy car. The post also claims that the alleged molester was “in-charge of the joy ride”. The video had concerned parents asking where the mall was located.
It has now transpired that the ‘molester’ was the boy’s uncle, that both of them are of Bangladeshi origin, and the incident took place in Saudi Arabia.
The video has been removed from both the websites. However, the Logical Indian post is still available and claims that the video was intended to “create awareness among parents, guardians and the public”. The Quint has managed to find another copy of the video, but we have chosen not to put it out.
Awareness, Outrage and Responsibility
The online news and content space is a highly competitive one. We are up against television channels, established newspapers and their websites. Then there is just the sheer plethora of words, images and facts that the internet throws up. There is the pressure to stand out and get there first, and somewhere along the way, the tedium of checking facts and verifying sources tends to slip through the cracks.
However, when it comes to something as sensitive as the sexual and physical abuse of children, our filters need to be at their best. The all too simple fall to ‘outrage’ can easily turn to a form of internet vigilantism, according to Dhanya Rajendran, Managing Editor and Co-founder of The News Minute, a digital news platform.
Anyone with a cellphone can be a journalist now, and that is often an empowering tool. However, we still need to have checks and balances before putting out stories about child abuse. The primary concern isn’t awareness or catching the alleged perpetrator, but protecting the victim. Were the parents of the child consulted before this video was made public? If the child is indeed a victim, will having this video in the public domain help him overcome this traumatic episode?
– Dhanya Rajendran, Managing Editor and Co-founder of The News Minute
In the screenshot of the video on Logical Indian, the faces of the alleged perpetrator and the victim weren’t blurred. The victim is a minor, and the allegations against his uncle were unsubstantiated. At the very least, shouldn’t their identities have been protected?
We All Need to Be Careful
The digital space is still relatively young, and all of us have made mistakes. At The Quint, we are aware that we are as fallible as anyone. The video in question here was graphic, and it’s easy to see why it can anger parents. But when it comes to issues as sensitive as child abuse, all of us need to be on our guards and adhere to the ethics of journalism.
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