Images, videos of beheaded journalist removed from Twitter

A file picture taken on September 29, 2011 shows US freelance reporter James Foley (left) on the highway between the airport and the West Gate of Sirte, Libya. Twitter on Wednesday removed from its service photos and video of the beheading of Fo
A file picture taken on September 29, 2011 shows US freelance reporter James Foley (left) on the highway between the airport and the West Gate of Sirte, Libya. Twitter on Wednesday removed from its service photos and video of the beheading of Foley that had been posted online by jihadists. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Twitter on Wednesday removed from its service photos and video of the beheading of a US journalist that had been posted online by jihadists.

The gruesome, almost five-minute-long video entitled "A Message to America" surfaced Tuesday, confronting Twitter and other online platforms with a quandry over whether to allow their sites, normally committed to free expression, to be used to propagate graphic material like that in the video.

The video shows the execution of journalist James Foley by a masked militant and a warning that the group intends to kill a second captive journalist unless the United States halts air strikes in Iraq.

"We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery. Thank you," Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo posted.

Images of the beheading in an open desert area began disappearing from Twitter at around the same time as Costolo's message was posted.

YouTube also removed the video from its site in accordance with its policy against "violent or gory content that's primarily intended to be shocking, sensational or disrespectful."

On Tuesday, Twitter had said it would take down photos of dead individuals if requested by family members, going a step beyond its previous rules.

That followed the apparent suicide of Hollywood star Robin Williams, whose daughter, Zelda Williams, quit social media last week, upset by Internet "trolls" defacing images of her Oscar-winning dad.

"Twitter will remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances," a statement posted by senior manager of communications, Nu Wexler, said.

"Immediate family members and other authorised individuals may request the removal of images or video of deceased individuals, from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death," it said.