With accused murderer Magnotta behind bars in Germany, a mountain of evidence and justice waiting for him back in Canada and an extradition process that looks like it’s going to take only a matter of weeks, you’d think the case would end there. Recently, the case took a bizarre turn with calls to have the website that hosted the disgusting video shut down and the owner charged. It seems necessary, at this point, to share some thoughts on the matter and why trying to shut down a website won’t make a social problem go away.
I want to say this right off the top to try and make sure no one confuses what I’m saying or takes what I have to say out of context. I don’t support Magnotta in the slightest nor do I support the website in question. I don’t plan on visiting the website and I will not further publicize the website in question to fan the flames directly.
Now that my views on the matter are clear from the get-go, I want to talk about some of the calls that are coming out lately that has really caught my attention. That is the calls to charge the owner of the website that hosted the video in question and shut the website down. When I first heard of this, my immediate question is (and still is) “what do these people who want the site shut down hope to accomplish?”
I’ve been observing and writing about the different trends and the behavior of the Internet since 2005, so I’d like to think I can make some educated comments on the matter. The situation as I understand it in this case is that you have a website hosted and owned by a Canadian. You have a sick idiotic Canadian who posted videos of himself doing criminal acts online and makes no secret who he even is. When it comes to dealing with crime and punishment on the Internet, the Canadian authorities was basically handed a slam dunk case. Minus the fact that the killer fled to another country, there’s no international laws to contend with, no international politics to have to fight with, nothing. This is about the best circumstances the police could ever hope for. The only way the case could be any easier for the police is if the suspect never fled the country in the first place. That is why the investigation side of the story should have ended there.
Unfortunately, the investigation part of the story didn’t end there.
Now, there are calls to have the owner of the website involved in this case charged and the website shut down. While some reports suggested that police contacted the owner, the owner denied that he was ever contacted by police about charges being laid against him or action directed towards his website.
For those who call on the website to be shut down, I seriously wonder if these people even knows what traditionally happens when a site gets shut down by authorities. For those who haven’t been paying attention in the last decade, either new websites crop up to fill the gap or a more established website simply takes center stage for this kind of content. So, instead of a website owner within your jurisdiction who will either co-operate with local authorities or will be forced to co-operate through a court order (should the website in question get shut down), you’ll end up with a website that resides outside your jurisdiction who may or may not co-operate with you. What is better, knowing the website within your borders will co-operate or rolling the dice and hoping the one outside your borders will co-operate?
Moreover is the whole idea of adding fuel to the fire that I’ve seen discussed in all of this. While the media is talking about the Magnotta case, they are offering a broadcast containing the name of the website 24 hours a day. Newspapers are no doubt printing the site in question. You don’t even have to look hard to find out what website hosted it. The owner, in one day, has probably gotten more publicity for him and his website than Justin Beiber on the same day. Some people are talking about how much money the guy is no doubt making in advertising. Am I the only one realizing where all this extra revenue is coming from? The guy must be laughing all the way to the bank and he has the mainstream media to thank for more publicity than he could ever dream of right now. If there isn’t a massive traffic spike going to his website right now, I’d be very impressed. Here’s a little advise for the media if they are so horrified by the contents of the website and wondering what could possibly be done to stop such horrific stuff from spreading: Shut up. No, seriously, shut up about it. Stop giving free advertising for the website. Saying the website over and over again non-stop will not magically make the website or similar websites go away. There are ways of talking about this without advertising the site directly (this article is a great example of this). Already, this story is starting to get out of hand and I seriously hope it can be contained before we find ourselves censoring websites that have a swear word in it.