LiveLeak has been in business for fifteen years and is now closed.
Video site LiveLeak, best known for hosting gruesome footage that mainstream rivals wouldn’t touch, has shut down after fifteen years in operation. In its place is “ItemFix,” a site that bans users from uploading media containing “excessive violence or gory content.”
Hayden Hewitt, founder of LiveLeak, did not explain the site’s closing in a blog post. He said that LiveLeak was becoming a difficult task and that it was impossible to keep fighting.
Hewitt says, “Everything’s changed now; everything is moving on,” before adding, “I don’t fuck like it.” It was much more enjoyable when it was Wild West.
LIVELEAK GREW OUT OF THE “SHOCK SITES” OF THE EARLY INTERNET
LiveLeak is a staple of internet culture. Its name has become synonymous with videos of violence, murder, terrorism and other everyday incidents. LiveLeak, a sinister rival to YouTube, was established in 2006. It grew from a culture of early internet shock sites such as Ogrish and Rotten.com. These sites hosted violent and pornographic content with the sole purpose of discrediting users.
LiveLeak’s tagline “Redefining Media” added some nuance and charm to the brutish appeal. Sometimes, the site’s content was defended by those involved in official statements. Hewitt said that the website was subject to controversy after it featured footage of children fighting.
The site frequently changed its policies regarding controversial footage, despite this. It hosted a video showing the execution of James Foley, a journalist from the United States. This was a significant draw for both traffic and attention. But soon after, the site’s owners announced it would host no future beheading videos created by ISIS.
A blog post stated that “We have shown the world the horrors of this execution many times in the past”, and that there is no compelling reason to promote the group’s actions. “We know that they [ISIS] don’t find support here on LL, and that condemnation has almost universal reach, but there is no need to show any more.”
Similarly, the site chose not to host videos of the 2019 Christchurch shootings, stating in another blog post that LiveLeak never had a “show everything” policy and that hosting the video would only give the shooter what he wanted: more attention.
LIVELEAK ATTRACTS SIZABLE TRAFFIC, PROOF OF THE ENDURING APPEAL TO ITS SHOCKING CONTENT
Although it was not as prominent as other video hosts, the site still attracted large numbers of viewers. According to The New York Times, it was ranked 695th in the world by web tracking company Alexa in a 2019 report. This puts it on par with popular sites like Jezebel and The Onion.
The same report cites an academic study by Sue Tait that explains the enduring popularity of such violent and gory content. Tait identified four types of “spectatorial positions” based on her observations at Ogrish forums.
Tait and other academics have identified a range of justifications that suggest that extreme content will continue to be in demand, even if some sites like LiveLeak disappear.
Hayden Hewitt, a founder of the site, wrote a farewell blog post emphasizing the importance of the site’s community. To the members, uploaders, casual visitors, trolls, and occasionally demented individuals who have been with me. He writes that you have been our constant companions, even though we didn’t communicate as often as you might think. Your content has been a delight to me on a personal level. To those who are no longer with us. I still remember you.”