On Saturday, what could likely be this generation’s version of the Zapruder film got uploaded to YouTube: NASCAR driver Tony Stewart killing another driver during a race. Even without ads though, does YouTube make money by keeping the grim video on their site?
Stewart, who is famous for his fiery temper, is first shown knocking the other racer, 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., out of the race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. Captured in amazing clarity on video, Ward then climbs out of his car to confront Stewart on the track. Stewart, on his next lap, may or may not have gone out of his way to strike the charging Ward with his car (at speeds of roughly 30-35 mph under a caution flag), sending him flying and killing him. While the footage does not reveal conclusively if manslaughter most foul occurred on this dirt track in New York, what it does show is YouTube’s lessening grip on what they consider offensive content.
Typically, the rough stuff is left to sites like Live Leak, but increasingly YouTube seems to be heading in the direction of allowing death to creep into their world. But is it purely the noble motive of reporting the stark realities from all facets of life or is there just a buck to be made and Google-owned YouTube is stalking it?
With over 3 million views on the original video and another million on mirror accounts, YouTube benefits from this footage in some capacity — be it new viewers to the space or a small piece of the enormous mountain of data that lures in advertisers. But can a dollar sign be attributed to this tragedy?
We reached out to YouTube for some clarity on the matter, but they’re a “West Coast company” and are probably still slumbering, nestled warm in their beds with visions of cats dancing happily in their heads. We’ll update when we have an answer from them.
In the meantime, this video stays online and somebody somewhere profits from a young man’s senseless death.