With Autoplay On, Turkey Assassination Video Shocks Twitter

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The video of the assassination in Ankara, Turkey, was all over Twitter on Monday.
The video of the assassination in Ankara, Turkey, was all over Twitter on Monday. Credit: TReport via Twitter

The shooting of the Russian ambassador in Turkey is shocking Twitter.

The video of the assassination is being played automatically in many cases, giving people a surprise look at the graphic moment, whether they want it or not.

The video has again raised the issue of autoplay video, which starts in people's feeds with no need to click a play button. When disturbing subject matter is involved it can be jarring.

It's also another reminder of the rawness of Twitter, and how the unfiltered conversation can make it an unsafe space for brands.

The same autoplay video issue was discussed when Islamic State terrorists were spreading beheading videos. Facebook is another platform that uses autoplay as its standard video format.

Many on Twitter appeared disturbed by the autoplay videos of the assassination.

"How about turning off autoplay for videos of people being murdered," one Twitter user posted on a BuzzFeed tweet showing the video.

BuzzFeed did have a note ahead of the video warning of graphic content, but for some that wasn't enough. "Please make your graphic content warning at least 5 seconds long," another user tweeted.

The Russian ambassador to Turkey was gunned down at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey, while addressing reporters. The video showed him getting shot from behind, falling, and the alleged assailant ranting, following the attack.

The video was all over Twitter except in sections that are more curated. For instance, if people clicked the hashtag "Turkey" then there were no videos in the feed. Also, the Moments section had a special tweet montage around the event, but not tweets of the video.

Clearly, Twitter had taken some steps to limit the videos reach. Twitter did not respond for comment in time for this story.

Twitter is known as the place to go for immediate reactions to live news. Sometimes the free-flowing conversation has burned brands, but it's also what they like about the platform, according to Jill Sherman, the head of social media at DigitasLBi.

"There are a handful of brands that actually want to have their ads aligned with unsettling or tragic news," Ms. Sherman said by email. "For example, if you're the Red Cross, you might decide to run ads that ask people to help those impacted by a tragic event. Or, if you're an insurance company, you might decide to run ads that provide peace of mind or safety tips during a negative weather event. But, for the most part, the majority of brands would rather steer clear from having their ads run next to something tragic, for fear of appearing insensitive or tone deaf."

Users can turn off autoplay videos in their settings. Also, the video played on cable news channels like CNN.

People expect to see graphic news on cable channels, according to Tero Kuittinen, a mobile tech analyst and power Twitter user.

"I can't accept an auto launch video where we can see the facial expression of the victim at the moment of bullet's impact within two seconds," Mr. Kuittinen said over Twitter. "There is no choice of whether to view this or not. It's a snuff film forced on Twitter users without warning. Hard to believe this is where we are."

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