Viewing or sharing the harrowing video of James Foley’s beheading online could be regarded as a terrorist offence, Scotland Yard has warned.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said specialists from the Counter Terrorism unit were continuing to examine the footage in order to look for clues as to the identity of the suspected British jihadist but said the public should refrain from viewing the video.
In a statement a spokesman said: “We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation.”
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe explained that while viewing the video was technically a crime, his officers would be more focused on tracking down those who shared the footage or glorified it.
Meanwhile the file sharing website YouTube announced it was taking action to remove any footage of the brutal execution and close any accounts belonging to terrorists or extremist organisations.
The company, which is owned by Google, took action after a campaign was launched on Twitter encouraging users not to share videos of the murder.
Supporters of the campaign urged users to post images of Mr Foley in happier times before his kidnap in Syria in 2012.
A YouTube spokesman said: “YouTube has clear policies that prohibit content like gratuitous violence, hate speech and incitement to commit violent acts, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users.
“We also terminate any account registered by a member of a designated foreign terrorist organisation and used in an official capacity to further its interests.”
Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo also said his firm was taking action against accounts which spread the video, posting a message that said: “We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery. Thank you.”
An online campaign aimed at starving terror group IS or Islamic State of the oxygen of publicity, quickly garnered support around the world.
Photographer Paul Conroy, who was injured in Homs, Syria in 2012, said people spreading the video were doing IS’s work for it.
He told BBC Radio 5: “In many ways the passing around of these pictures and the videos of James is essentially doing what these people – these murderers – want you to do.
“They want it to go viral, they want as many people in the world to look at it. So in many ways by sharing them and propagating we fall into their hands.
“That’s the reason why it’s such a stage-managed event.
“What happened was stage-managed by people who are very, very media aware and they know too well that nothing can be banned on the Internet so these images – the video – will go about.”