Twitter Under Attack After Graphic Texas Shooting Images and Video Go Viral

The social platform gutted its content moderation team during mass layoffs shortly after Elon Musk took over ownership

Texas Shooting
People hold signs reading, 'Enough is Enough' during a vigil at the Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church on May 7, 2023 in Allen, Texas. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Critics took aim at Twitter on Sunday after graphic, bloody images spread on the platform from Saturday’s mass shooting at a Texas outlet mall that resulted in nine deaths, including the gunman.

At the center of the criticism was Elon Musk’s decision to gut the platform’s content moderation team amid layoffs, shortly after he bought Twitter in October.

“This family does not deserve to see the dead relatives spread across Twitter for everybody to see,” veteran journalist Pat Holloway told the New York Times.

According to Reuters, a graphic 10-second video from the scene showed dead bodies, including that of at least one young child, circulated on Twitter. The news wire reached out to Twitter for comment.

“In past shootings, social media sites have worked to take down links to such graphic images,” Reuters reported Sunday evening. “An emailed request for comment to Twitter, which no longer has a communications team, returned an automated reply with a poop emoji.”

Another image showed a man, shot, lying on the floor in a pool of blood. “The #AR15 shooting resulted. So @GovAbbott and @tedcruz can get money from the @NRA ,” tweeted retired serviceman Russell Honore.

TheWrap has chosen not to share these images.

The site’s lack of content moderation staff had previously been considered a drawback for users and major advertisers who feared very little would be done by the platform in combating hate speech and misinformation. In response, Musk announced he’d create a content moderation council.

There are some who believe that images that graphically depict the reality of terrible events should have a place in public discourse, there’s disagreement on whether social media sites like Twitter and its users should be the arbiters of such imagery versus traditional media and groups who follow rules of conduct in their decision making.

“I understand where people on social media are coming from who want to circulate these images in the hopes that it will make a change,” UCLA professor Sarah T. Roberts, who focuses on content moderation, told the Times. “But unfortunately, social media as a business is not set up to support that. What it’s set up to do is to profit from the circulation of these images.”