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Anti-gun group creates Chrome extension to erase killers from the internet

Wed 27 Apr 2016

U.S.-based anti-gun campaigners have created an extension for Google Chrome which is designed to stop perpetrators of gun violence from achieving the traditional notoriety associated with brutal crimes – by obscuring their names and images from major news sites and Google search results.

The ‘Zero Minutes of Fame’ extension, released by the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, went live at the Google Chrome store today, and works as advertised in the video accompanying the release (embedded at bottom), though the nature of the database it is using – presumably either with remote calls or periodic updates to local storage – is not immediately obvious.

zero-minutes-of-fame-resultsHowever after installing the extension and performing a Google search for Adam Lanza, who shot 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, the primary search results are indeed affected (see image right), with the killer’s name replaced with (Name withheld out of respect for victims) and related images replaced with one related to the extension.

Going further into search results, the replacement does not appear to be dynamic, but domain-specific; no blocking or substitution occurred at WFSB’s coverage of the demolition of Lanza’s house, or with the Christian Science Monitor and other similar-level outlets. But the substitutions are in place at major pages related to Lanza, at large sites such as the Huffington Post, the Daily Mail, Biography.com. At time.com, an article about young Lanza had the name substituted, but not the accompanying picture.

The information accompanying the Zero Minutes extension states that 30% of mass killings and 22% of school shootings to be inspired by similar previous incidents:

‘These events are always covered by the media, who plasters the killer’s name, image and motives all over their broadcast channels. So, if the media continues to give these killers their 15 minutes of fame, then it’s time to take matters into our own hands. By simply downloading this plug-in, you can wipe away the killer’s name and image from your screen, and replace it with something that truly deserves our attention —the victims. You can also sign our petition, and encourage mass-media to stop showing the perpetrators’ names and images on their channels.’

time-article-lanzaThe semi-altered Time article does raise some obvious questions about the advisability of trying to repress the very old syndrome of glory-seeking criminals via technological means, but it depends on your viewpoint about longer-term analysis of sensational events. Is such an article cynically seeking extra capital from a largely-spent topic by raking over the coals, and the bad memories? Or is it facilitating the fairly reasonable cultural need to review disastrous events in an attempt to seek new insights and potential solutions?

There are many extensions for Chrome and other browser plug-ins which can rewrite web-pages, or even prevent customised words, content and sites from displaying as intended when the user is casually browsing. At the IMDB and specialised sites, various individuals and groups over the last twenty years have provided resources to help crime victims partake of general media without constant fear of having old trauma triggered by, for instance, movies depicting rape – though the resources of ‘trigger blacklists’ extends to other themes such as domestic violence, suicide, incest and depression – among many others.

But the ambit of Zero Minutes of Fame is not to provide such tools for those affected by violent gun crime, but to invite society to actively deny killers fame. However, ignorance and aversion seem to be a controversial way of approaching the problem.

Tags:

crime Google internet legal news
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