Online Videos and Ethics

If you’ve been online anywhere in the past day, hour, or minute, chances are you’ve passed by a random video full of strangers, like the video with the belly-dancing girl in the red dress and the infamous footage of the Nile Tower suicide.

Sometimes, videos like these get a sympathetic coo, a heartfelt analysis, or a chuckle out of you, depending on the context. Not one of us, though, thinks about the ethical line we cross every time we see these videos.

Online videos, to be completely honest, are a weird territory. They can easily become memes and go viral in the blink of an eye, whether the “featured star” is a celebrity or a regular person.

There is, however, one difference between a short clip featuring a celeb and a short clip featuring a stranger. Celebrities know they’re being filmed.

Another distinguishing thing is, unless the video is private and leaked, the celebrities don’t exactly suffer for being made viral. The strangers, the normal people, do.

Rarely, it seems, does anyone think about the person in the video. Or what happens once it goes viral. Going back to the video of the belly-dancing girl, she knew she was being filmed — on relatives and friends’ phones. It’s safe to say, she had no idea her dancing would be widely broadcast on all Egyptian social media.

Here’s the thing, plain and simple. These videos are just unethical.

Sharing them, watching them, and interacting with them at any point just adds on to the already growing spiral of shares, reposts, and retweets.

Before you say we’re being superior, we’re going to acknowledge that we all do this. It’s hard to not engage with videos online, especially if they’re funny, because we’re kind of curious as people. And most of us don’t even think about that video any further after we’ve seen or shared it.

But the fact that we’re unaware or don’t have bad intentions shouldn’t be an excuse. It should be an incentive for us to stop interacting with these videos.

Make yourself more conscious. We know that funny videos are meant to be taken lightly and as un-seriously as possible, but taking a minute to ask yourself a few questions wouldn’t hinder you.

Just ask yourself: does the person in the video know they’re being filmed? Is what they’re doing embarrassing or not-the-best-of-behaviors? Would they be okay about the video being out there? Would they be offended, hurt, or mocked?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then there you have it. And there you have your course of action. Report the video or talk to the person who shared it in the first place if they didn’t know or just talk in general and make others aware.

For the record, this doesn’t cover horrible behaviors like child, animal, racial abuse or sexual harassment because these are harmful acts.

There is plenty to laugh about that isn’t other people’s misfortunes.