It feels like NFTs are all that people talk about on the online sphere, whether positively or not. NFTs — non-fungible tokens — are unique digital art, music, or videos, that are explicitly owned by those that purchase it. NFTs are part of the crypto culture sweeping our society: while Bitcoin is a form of cryptocurrency — money that is independent from banks — NFTs cannot be used to purchase Teslas but they still have value.
Think about it as art collecting: anyone can buy a print of a Van Gogh painting at a museum, but there is only one owner of the original. Except with NFTs, many people would be able to own the painting. But this is why the word “own” is important: if the Van Gogh painting increases in value overt time, the people with prints wouldn’t be able to resell them for more, but the owner would. This is presumably why someone paid over 350,000 dollars for a video from Canadian artist Grimes that was less than a minute long, which is still not the most expensive NFT purchase.
And this ownership is what made Andy Parker believe that NFTs could hold the solution for his tragic problem. He is the father of news reporter Alison Parker, who was murdered in 2015. Parker, along with photojournalist Adam Ward, were shot on air while they were conducting an interview in Virginia. Parker’s father turned the clip of the death into an NFT with hopes that he will have the power to remove it completely from the internet. It’s a 17-second video and has been spread across social media and viewed millions of times.
Parker has been fighting YouTube (and Google, which owns the site) for several years to have them remove and ban the clip. “Google monetizes my daughter’s death,” he told Insider in an interview in 2020. “It’s not in their interest to take it down.” He stated that the video was edited to be made more dramatic, which is distressing to the victims’ surviving families. Worse, the video has been hijacked by conspiracy theorists on YouTube, who have gone on to harass Parker and his family.
Unfortunately, this may not work as Parker hopes it will. Parker’s NFT would give him ownership of a copy of the video, not the original video itself (which is owned by Gray Television).
This unfortunate saga showcases how impactful images of crime are to survivors. As true crime has boomed across social media, growing to great popularity on YouTube and TikTok, creators use images of victims and perpetrators alike to improve their content. For example, the ‘pictures with disturbing backstories’ TikTok tag, which often showcases pictures of murder victims before and sometimes after they are killed, has 101.4 million views.
Images have a lot of power online, both in gaining virality and bringing followers to those who use it. Andy Parker’s failed attempts to remove the traumatic video of his daughter’s violent death shows us how social media guidelines fail in protecting those who need it.