LiveLeak can be considered the antithesis of popular media, which encompasses television, movies, social media and music, but also includes the widely-held beliefs and ideologies embedded into it. Popular media can serve as a lens to view the culture that produced it; for the most part, the popular media produced in a given time period is linked by common themes and reasoning, and it expresses the feelings and attitudes of the people who promote it.
For many of us from the younger generations, popular media has a broad scope because we rely on social networks to provide our news, given that most traditional media sources — such as television and print journalism — generally cater to older audiences; that being said, all of these sources have the same general rules about how to report the news and what to show.
LiveLeak allows the posting of diverse perspectives in an uncensored opposition to traditional journalism. Since its inception, LiveLeak has been ubiquitous for its unique content. It operates on the principle of citizen journalism; like YouTube and other user-based digital media platforms, users on LiveLeak post international content, which ranges from serious depictions of war crimes and violence to graphic, dark comedy videos of real events.
LiveLeak is a video-sharing website based in London that was founded by private individuals. The website is known for hosting controversial videos and unique coverage of news events. LiveLeak follows one core principle: freedom. LiveLeak users are free to submit videos that depict graphic violence and other contentious topics as long as they follow certain guidelines.
The site was founded in 2006 as a continuation of the defunct Ogrish.com, and it follows some of the same principles as it predecessor. LiveLeak has shown real life footage of wars, fighting and terrorist attacks, and it currently has daily footage of situations in Syria and Ukraine. LiveLeak has been in the public eye since 2007, when it leaked the execution of Saddam Hussein.
There are a number of communities that follow the site and repost LiveLeak videos on different social media, like YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit. But lately, LiveLeak has been having a hard time maintaining its status as a media staple. Two main issues are plaguing the site: its user population has been steadily declining, and it’s losing its reputation as a site that lets you post anything.
This past March, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen, livestreamed an attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, during which he killed 50 people. Immediately following the terrorist action, users on LiveLeak posted clips of the mosque attack from the original Facebook footage, and telecommunication companies responded by blocking LiveLeak as well as a number of other websites that showed the footage.
To our Australian and New Zealand viewers, we're sorry you can't view the site right now. We're doing what we can to make your ISP's aware of our position. Hopefully we'll have this rectified soon.
— LiveLeak Social (@LiveLeakSocial) March 19, 2019
LiveLeak removed the videos in question and changed their policies on what users are allowed to post, as well as revamped the commenting process; currently, only registered users can view and write comments on posts. These changes have been coming over the past few years, but this situation was the tipping point for many in the LiveLeak community, especially those who watch events on the site as an alternative or supplement to the news.
In the past, the site’s main draw was its archive of graphic violence, which users watched for laughs. As LiveLeak tightens its restrictions on the video content that users can post, those who watch the site’s videos for entertainment have begun to leave for other sites, like BestGore and Goregrish.
LiveLeak also has an incredibly outdated design; the website looks its age, since it seems to not have been updated since it was created in the early 2000s. The post upvote system is outdated and broken, and each page has two to three ads at minimum, some of which are pop-ups. The home page has separate sections labeled “Must See” and “Featured,” even though the two categories are basically identical. The tag system is frustrating, because you can only give each post one tag, which makes it difficult to find specific videos.
Despite these criticisms, LiveLeak has found a large international audience that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere; since the website’s founding, the majority of its posts have come from users outside of the United States and England. A large number of posts come from Asian users, and there’s even a separate section for Russian videos. Due to the fact that many users used a no logging VPN to successfully hide their geolocation, it is difficult to say from which side support was stronger.
In addition to hosting videos, LiveLeak also provides ample opportunities for political debate because of its devotion to free speech. People post videos from all across the political spectrum under the “LiveLeakers” page, and although this may not be the best platform to discuss issues due to the nature of LiveLeak, people can debate openly with little backlash.
To some, LiveLeak may seem like a thing of the past, but with a few crucial changes and shifts in principles, it could have a chance at revival in 2019. If the site becomes a more serious platform and focuses more on its goal of citizen journalism rather than entertainment, it’s reasonable to assume that the current generation would be interested given their passion and political activism.
After all, LiveLeak’s slogan is “redefining the media.” It’s definitely done that in the past; the question is, is it up to doing so in the future?