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A man whose daughter was shot dead during a live television broadcast is now running for Congress, as part of his mission to hold social media platforms accountable for the circulation of the footage, and to change the way they deal with distressing content.
In August 2015, 24-year-old journalist Alison Parker was shot dead by a man described as a 'disgruntled former colleague' while delivering a live news segment at a shopping centre in Moneta. Her father, Andy Parker, has never watched the footage, but knowing it's out there – that it 'lingers' on the internet – has been 'traumatising' for him and his family.
Footage of the killing remains on a number of platforms, and over the past seven years Andy has done everything he can think of to try and remove all copies from the internet, to no avail.
He is now running for Congress in Virginia in the hopes of having greater influence over the system that has allowed the footage to remain.
After repeatedly flagging the content on social media and filing complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), he more recently bought an NFT of the footage, hoping to use it in lieu of a copyright claim to try and get the video taken down. The actual copyright is owned by Gray Television, the company that owns the local affiliate Alison was reporting for at the time of her death.
Andy has attempted to get the copyright from Gray, but the company 'refuses' to hand it over and 'won't say why'. UNILAD has reached out to Gray for comment.
Whatever the reason, Andy and his legal team are now 'throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks' as part of his mission to do 'whatever we can do to fight back'.
He's not entirely sure how much he paid for the NFT, telling UNILAD his legal team handled much of the purchase, but explained it 'wasn't terribly expensive' and cost perhaps 'a couple of thousand' dollars.
Should he make it through the primaries and into Congress following the general election in November, Andy plans to eliminate the protections held by tech companies to allow people who have been affected like himself to 'have [their] day in court'.
"That’s all I want, I want my day in court," Andy told UNILAD. "I want to be able to say 'you’re violating your Terms of Service, you’re saying that you’re doing this and you’re not', and if they were not protected from liability, they’d get sued out of oblivion," he continued.
Andy has been met with some critics arguing the video falls under the remit of 'free speech', but he argues there is a 'limit' to what should be considered free speech. "There has to be some standard of decency," he said.
The father and his family were first made aware of the existence of the video after setting up a foundation in honour of their daughter, which would allow children in their area to experience art they wouldn't normally have access to. As Andy's wife was doing a search on the For Alison Foundation, they came across a post that claimed the foundation was a 'scam' created to 'make money'.
Upon typing his daughter's name into YouTube, Andy discovered 'literally pages and pages and pages and pages of the video'. Thankfully autoplay didn't subject the father to the heartbreaking footage, but he noted it would no doubt be 'traumatic' for anyone who did happen to stumble upon it.
The closest thing Andy has ever seen in relation to the footage is 'gratuitous' stills taken from the shooter's GoPro camera, which have been shared by a few publications. Though the father acknowledged that sometimes companies feel the need to include such images to help sell their content, he expressed belief they 'had no place' online and that he was not okay with their usage.
In spite of this, Andy spends his time focusing on the removal of the video itself, saying 'there's only so much you can do'.
Whenever he has tried to have the content removed from social media platforms in the past, Andy has been met with what he described as a 'pre-recorded message that basically said the same bullsh*t' describing how the companies 'don't allow this' and that they acknowledge the content is 'terrible'.
Despite having the technology to remove the videos, Andy says, the companies have still failed to remove all versions, prompting the dad to brand the claims in their messages as 'nonsense'.
"Murder, illegal drugs, child pornography, illegal gun sales, that should not be proliferating on the web. That’s a no brainer," Andy said.
"We have to address this. Not just for me, not just for the fact that [platforms] are allowing graphic violence on there, but for all the misinformation that they also allow, it’s undermining democracy, we all see it. We have to do something about it, we have to fix it, and that’s what I’ll be doing day one."
Andy cited 'others who have been harmed' as one of the reasons why he is running for Congress, saying he doesn't want other families and parents to 'go through the same kind of trauma and heartbreak' that he has been subjected to over the past seven years.
He said there are 'others' who have experienced similar situations, but as he is among the most 'visible' of them, he is willing to take on the challenge of raising the issue and 'hold [his] colleagues accountable for fixing [the issue] once and for all'.
"I’m going to be the one to fix it, and I’m going to lead the charge and I’ll be the champion in Congress," Andy said. "So that’s what my mission is. I’ve tried to honour Alison through action, so she would expect nothing less."
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677
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