Culture

LiveLeak says goodbye to internet gore after 15 years

A site best-known for allowing users to upload videos of excessive violence doesn't really fit in on the internet in 2021.

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LiveLeak, the website best known for allowing users to upload videos of violence and gore, is no more. Founder Hayden Hewitt posted an impassioned letter about the site going dark on his new site, ItemFix — which, notably, does not allow the same graphic videos as its predecessor.

“The thing is,” Hewitt writes, “it's never been less than exhilarating, challenging and something we were all fully committed to. Nothing lasts forever though and — as we did all those years ago — we felt LiveLeak had achieved all that it could and it was time for us to try something new and exciting.”

Hewitt doesn’t offer much in the way of explanation for the site’s sudden closure, other than to mention that the world has “changed a lot over these last few years, and the Internet alongside it.” He comes across as genuinely upset about the site’s closing, calling it more a “way of life” than a business.

As The Verge points out, Hewitt also posted a video to his YouTube channel about the closure. In it, Hewitt says that keeping up with LiveLeak had become difficult, and that the team “just didn’t have it in us to carry on fighting.”

On gore and truth — LiveLeak debuted in 2006 and rose to fame shortly thereafter by leaking the 2007 execution of Saddam Hussein. This video really set the tone for the site: We’re here to show you what’s really going on in the world, even if it’s difficult to watch. That differentiated LiveLeak from sites like Ogrish.com, which set their sites instead on pure shock value.

In the intervening years, LiveLeak has at various times been forced to reckon with the problematic content it had built a brand around. Following the 2019 shootings in Christchurch, for example, the site chose not to host any videos of the event, with the explanation that doing so would just give the shooter more attention.

Time to move on — LiveLeak was a product of a very specific era of the internet; it pushed the boundaries of what the world would deem allowable for the general public’s viewing. In 2021, we have a much better understanding of how such content can have a wide berth of unfortunate consequences.

Hewitt’s new site, ItemFix, explicitly bans content that depicts suicide or excessively gory violence, as well as content that promotes targeted hate or harassment. It’s a much more contemporary take on video-sharing — one that doesn’t put viewers’ mental health at stake by existing.