Perhaps millions of internet users saw a live stream of a 12-year-old Georgia girl committing suicide five days after Christmas, and 40,000 people saw it on YouTube before the video was taken down. But in the age of viral videos, it has taken on a life of its own.
The girl, Katelyn Nicole Davis, recorded the event live December 30 on her mobile phone and used a live-streaming app that allowed her to broadcast herself taking her life, The Independent reported. She claimed that she had been a victim of sexual abuse by a family member. The 42-minute video, which showed her preparing for the suicide and hanging herself from a tree, then was copied from the feed on Live.me, a social media app similar to Facebook Live, and duplicated.
Other sites continue to show it, some justifying their decision by saying it should help prevent other suicides or sends a message about bullying. Polk County, Georgia, police, however, have urged people to take the video down or refrain from viewing it.
“There have been numerous videos and posts on various internet websites that are referencing this case,” they said on Facebook. “We are making a specific request that anyone who has any knowledge, videos, or comments regarding this case, please keep this information off of the internet.
“Out of respect for the family of the departed and for the deceased themselves, we respectfully request that the citizenry of Polk County and whoever might view or receive this message please help us out with this request.”
Police Chief Kenny Dodd has personally contacted several of the individuals operating websites that posted the footage, according to Fox 5 News Atlanta. He’s urged them to pull the video, without success.
“We want it down as much as anyone for the family and it may be harmful to other kids,” Dodd said. “We contacted some of the sites. They asked if they had to take it down, and by law they don’t… But it’s just the common decent thing to do, in my opinion.”
Polk County police got a tip about the suicide from a police department in California, which had apparently caught wind of the event because of its viral nature. After arriving at her home in Cedartown, police rushed Davis to hospital, but she was pronounced dead on arrival.
This week, investigators began looking into the allegations Davis made in an online diary of abuse and attempted rape by a family member.
This is not the first time live streaming has been used to display a horrific act. Almost a year ago, an Ohio teenager was charged with live-streaming the alleged rape of her 17-year-old friend. And in May, a young woman jumped in front of a commuter train in Paris while recording herself on the live video streaming app Periscope.
These events also occurred in the same year that millions of people saw the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on broadcast television and the internet.