Video: Dangerous Web videos

By Bob Sullivan Technology correspondent
msnbc.com
updated 7/14/2006 11:29:34 AM ET 2006-07-14T15:29:34

We got such response from our initial story about violent videos on the Web that we decided to investigate further.  As part of a joint project with NBC News, we sent a camera crew to Alexandria, La., to interview the man many know as the star of an Internet video called "How to Blow Up Your Hand."  And we talked to the man who paid him $250 for the rights to that video.  I hope you'll find that in the capable hands of NBC producer Andrew Gross and editor Mike Covert, we've taken an in-depth look at the topic.

Charlie Dyess, the man who had a dry ice bomb blow up in his hand on camera, was surprisingly philosophical about violent online videos when we spoke. On one hand, he compares the guilty pleasure some experience through watching others trip, fall, bleed, and burn, to violent exhibitions during Roman times.

"People like to see violence," he told us, and said there was little he or anyone else could do to stop children from doing dumb things on camera.

But on the other hand, he said he's concerned that children may imitate his video, and thinks some are pushing the limits too far in search of Internet video fame.

Keith Richman, the CEO of video site Break.com — and the man who paid Charlie his $250 prize — was adamant that really violent videos aren't popular.  "People don't want to see that," he said, repeatedly.  More than anything, people who come to his site want to laugh, or see something unexpected.  But videos that are too gruesome just won't draw much traffic, he said.  And he believes market forces will eventually drive videos like that out of the market.

But child safety expert Parry Aftab, who runs Wiredsafety.org, thinks there is cause for concern.  She told us she's certain children are engaging in incredibly risky behavior, and they're doing it to play to the camera. She’s seen a long list of ugly home videos online:  kids threatening each other, kids setting each other on fire, bloody fights, under aged pornography.  She's concerned that some video Web sites are making money off this kind of material, instead of working harder to keep it off their servers.

As you'll see, we had no trouble finding all manner of bloody and dangerous home movies shared on Web sites all over the Internet.

As we discussed previously in "Red Tape Chronicles," there's plenty of blame to go around — parents, the kids, and the Web site owners all deserve blame for this gruesome material that's being published for millions of people to see.  We'll have to keep arguing about what kind of material, if any, should be banned from Internet sites. But to argue about it, people have to know about it. 

Tens of millions of children had MySpace.com pages — many filled with overly provocative images and overly revealing personal information — before most parents had even heard of the site.  That same pattern should not be repeated with video sites.  Whatever side of the issue you come down on, it's imperative that parents know exactly what their kids are doing with those snazzy, inexpensive digital cameras they now carry everywhere in their pockets. 

So we offer you this video story today, thanks to the hard work of many people at NBC News. Some of the images are hard to see, but we felt it important to include a flavor of these violent videos so more people can understand what's happening online. Please click on the play button above to watch the video, and then let us know what you think below.

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