YouTube said it will not remove a bystander video of the mass shooting on Monday at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that includes footage of bodies on the ground.
Viewers must click through two warnings to watch the video, which state that “this video may be inappropriate for some users” and “the following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences.”
In the past, YouTube and other video-hosting networks like Twitter and Facebook have removed videos with graphic violence, including in 2019 when a gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand, streamed his own massacre. But YouTube said in a statement Wednesday that the Boulder video had been reviewed and would be allowed to remain.
“Violent content intended to shock or disgust viewers and hate speech are not allowed on YouTube, and as a result we have removed a number of videos for violating our policies,” a company spokesperson, Elena Hernandez, said in a statement. “We do allow certain violent or graphic content with sufficient news or documentary context, and so we’ve applied an age restriction to this particular content. We will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation.”
YouTube said it considers a variety of factors when deciding whether to remove a video, including whether it provides context for the violence, whether the violence is the focus of the video, and if the accompanying text indicates intent to shock or disgust viewers.
The three-hour video from King Soopers, taken by a bystander named Dean Schiller who said he had a friend inside the store, begins with Mr. Schiller filming and zooming in on a body in the parking lot. Gunshots can be heard as he walks into the store and focuses on a body near the entrance. Over the course of an hourlong standoff, he films from behind cars, railings and trees, refusing repeated police commands to clear the area and capturing the police response from outside of the building.
Mr. Schiller repeatedly identifies himself to the police as a journalist, and lashes out at officers who, after about 90 minutes, move him behind yellow police tape, which journalists typically stand behind. Before that, his close vantage point allowed viewers to directly see the events unfold, including footage of a handcuffed man, believed to be the gunman, being led away by officers with a bloody leg.
Some viewers criticized the video for showing graphic images of bodies and speculating on motives. It had been viewed more than 700,000 times on YouTube as of Wednesday morning. More than 30,000 people were simultaneously watching live at one point, according to The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs.
Mr. Schiller, who is unaffiliated with any news organization, calls himself a citizen journalist and is well-known to the Boulder police. The Gazette said he sued the city in 2019 after he was arrested for filming in and near the county jail.