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Gruesome Video of Alleged Syrian Torture Victim Back Up on YouTube

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, June 1 2011

A graphic video showing the body of a 13 year-old Syrian boy allegedly tortured and killed by the Assad government was pulled down from YouTube for a short time, reports the Nation's Ari Melber, but has since been restored. "Sometimes we make the wrong call," a YouTube spokesperson told Melber, speaking generally about YouTube's removal process.

The video of the boy, named as Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, was taken down under YouTube's policy against "shocking and disgusting content," according to a note left in place of the removed clip.

Platform sites like YouTube that accept content from users has to make decisions about how to handle materials that other users might find offensive. Popular sites take different approaches. YouTube's approach is to try to abide by the standards of the YouTube "community" -- "We're not asking for the kind of respect reserved for nuns, the elderly, and brain surgeons. We mean don't abuse the site." -- and then enforce those standards through human reviewers.

A single flagging of a video as offensive is enough to drive a video into the queue of a YouTube reviewer, as we've previously reported. "If the YouTube team determines that the video does violate the guidelines, the video is removed. If it doesn't," YouTube spokesperson Victoria Grand said at the time, "the video remains on YouTube." Facebook, on the other hand, has used an automated system through which a post can be deleted if enough people complain. That system was used to yank down a Sarah Palin Facebook post on the so-called World Trade Center mosque last July, in an effort organized through Tumblr blogs.

YouTube's system means it's relying upon internal reviewers to decide what's appropriate for its platform. A New York Times article last year reported that given the troubling nature of some of what they're called on to watch, YouTube's reviewers are given one-year contracts and access to counseling services.

Here's the video. But again, it's pretty troubling.