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Sen. Tim Kaine calls for Google, Meta investigation related to Smith Mountain Lake murder videos

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google and Meta regarding the continued presence of a video depicting the murders of two Roanoke journalists.

In August 2015, Alison Parker and Adam Ward with Roanoke’s WDBJ news channel were shot and killed by a former colleague during a live broadcast. A third person, Vicki Gardner, was seriously wounded during the attack, which the gunman recorded on video.

Videos of the Moneta shooting incident remain on Google and Meta platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the release explained. Parker’s father, Andy Parker, of Collinsville, has asked asked Google in March 2020 and Meta in October 2021 to remove the graphic content.

“Despite his efforts, the videos are still widely accessible,” Kaine’s release reads, adding that the father has spoken “about the damaging impact the footage has had on his family during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Mr. Parker continues to suffer because companies like Google and Meta are still hosting content depicting this tragic incident on their platforms,” Kaine said. “I am concerned by the approach taken by these platforms, which shifts the burden of finding and removing content in violation of the platform’s Terms of Service onto murder victims’ families.”

Parker has submitted complaints to the Federal Trade Commission “arguing that the remaining videos violate the platforms’ Terms of Service and fail to provide consumers with a user experience free from harmful content,” according to Kaine’s release.

Kaine said Friday that he is urging the FTC to respond to Parker’s complaints and work with him to address his concerns. He wrote to Lina Khan, commission chairwoman, urging the group “to explore all possible avenues to ensure that companies like Google and Meta provide consumers with an experience free from violent and harmful content.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner wrote a similar letter to Khan on the same topic in October.

Kaine spoke about Parker’s family’s “horrible situation on the Senate floor in September 2021 and June 2016,” Friday’s news release reads. “He has also led his colleagues in ensuring a safe online environment for online users, especially children. Last year, he cosponsored the Kids Online Safety Act and the SAFE TECH Act to hold social media platforms accountable for harmful content.”