For those of you who’ve never really delved into the world of shock websites and therefore have never heard of theYNC.com or BestGore.com, let me give you a beginner’s introduction. TheYNC is a platform that hosts a variety of gruesome videos and makes them available to watch for anyone interested in scarring their mind for life. The website’s main categories offer different types of content, from ‘live sex’ and ‘female suicides’ to ‘UFO’ and ‘gore’, the YNC has it all when it comes to disturbing real-life occurrences.
We’ve previously looked at Best Gore and discovered the true crime story that made it an institution in gore and shock websites, later made into a Netflix documentary titled Don’t F**k With Cats. Not far from it, TheYNC hosts similar content.
Both The YNC and Best Gore offer videos as well as photos, although the latter is less in-demand than shared videos. On it, users can post videos which can fall into a wide range of categories. Ever wanted to witness a beheading? TheYNC has a ton of them for you! What about watching a teenager set himself on fire? Look no further, it’s all on TheYNC too.
Unsurprisingly, graphic porn and abuse videos are also a big part of TheYNC’s success, which can be found on the website’s ‘top porn’ category. While looking through the platform, I stumbled across videos of random stabbings, gang rapes, impalements, hangings, and plenty more shocking content. Yet, somehow, I kept on scrolling, half terrified, half curious. While spending 10 minutes on the website made me feel like I had braved something spine-chilling for the greater good, the idea of someone regularly visiting TheYNC for fun still sounds unthinkable. It made me wonder how exactly TheYNC created such an engaged group of users.
TheYNC has a well-thought points system which rewards users based on three different ‘honours’. After having created their own profile, users can win points, badges, and YNC ranks put into place to encourage them to share, comment and like—basically keeping users engaged.
Just like the commonly used points system you’ll find on forum platforms like Reddit or Voat, TheYNC uses one to rank its users based on their engagement. On the website’s ‘YNC Zone’, users can find out their YNC Rank, which represents their ‘level’ of engagement based on two other factors: the amount of YNC Points they’ve received as well as the different Badges they’ve won.
Watching, commenting on, rating videos gets users badges, which then give them points. Points are counted to create a rank number. These three elements allow TheYNC to rank users and reward them on its ‘Leaderboard’. In other words, as grotty as the shock website might look, it functions on a clear user engagement strategy, which certainly seems to be working.
Studies have explored these inclinations. Some suggest that we want to be prepared for the worst, and that the implausibility of horror movies pushes us to consider abstract environments from which we might be able to escape, only if we’re prepared.
Death and pain are both something terrifying yet unavoidable, which makes some people obsessed with looking at it and trying to understand it. According to a 2015 research conducted on 120 participants by the University of Central Florida, as much as gore videos provoke disgust in most viewers, they also make us come back for more and have the power to captivate us more than any other entertainment.
Whether or not a person should have access to this kind of footage and the part that websites like TheYNC and Best Gore play in it is territory for many arguments related to freedom of speech—a topic that I will steer clear of for now.
Many experts agree that screen violence has an effect on real-life violence and TheYNC not only brings the important question of how far freedom of speech should go on the internet but also represents a risk for people who already have a fascination with death and who might feel validated and encouraged to do something by such platforms.
Shock websites are non-regulated platforms that are here to, according to different gore fanatics, give users an ‘unfiltered’ view of the world. But it is important for us to remember that their owners, let’s take Mark Marek who launched Best Gore in 2008 as our example, refer to Holocaust survivors as “pathological liars” among other things. Are these platforms really as innocent as they like to pretend?
TheYNC’s terms and conditions page warns users: “You shall be solely responsible for your own User Submissions and the consequences of posting or publishing them.” Understandably, shock websites have done everything in their power to avoid any blame in the role they play in promoting violent content. Further down the page, however, in a section about prohibited uses, the site reads “You agree not to use the website to submit any content depicting child pornography, rape, torture.” This clearly contradicts what can be found on the platform, and yet, TheYNC and Best Gore are still around.
So, next time you feel like watching a Mexican drug cartel butchering someone or an ISIS decapitation video, which are usually appreciated for their high production values, maybe try to combat the urge first. If not for ethical reasons, for your own good.
For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Reddit is an online forum and social news platform with an impressive network of communities based on people’s interests, which are separated into different pages called ‘subreddits’. The platform is also infamous for giving freedom of speech free reign, sometimes leading to some pretty shocking statements on there.
But on Monday, Reddit kicked off a surprising day of bans against Trump and the far right. It started by banning the subreddit r/The_Donald, a pro-Trump forum, known for repeated ‘rule-breaking’. As the platform banned more and more subreddits, many wondered why it was doing so only now. Here’s why.
Although The Donald was considered as the most important ban, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced that it was just one of 2,000 subreddits banned by the site as it was on a mission to institute rule changes designed to make the platform less accommodating to hateful and abusive communities. As it later turned out, The Donald had been close to inactive for months and most of the other banned subreddits were small or inactive too.
Only a few others were notable, including the subreddit r/ChapoTrapHouse, which was associated with the left-wing podcast of the same name. Another subreddit called Gendercritical, which regularly promoted transphobic views was also banned.
This day of bans reminded many of the similar sequence of bans that took place in August 2018, when conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was banned from many social media platforms in only a few days.
Later in the day on Monday 29 June, the live-streaming video service Twitch announced that it had temporarily suspended Trump’s account for rebroadcasting comments about Mexican immigrants that broke its “hateful conduct and harassment policies.” Could these new bans be specifically aimed at Trump?
YouTube also followed by banning several far-right and racist creators from its video-sharing platform, including white supremacists David Duke, Richard Spencer, and Stefan Molyneux. While these actions should definitely be appreciated, it should also be noted that all three seemed to have been taken a bit too late.
These bans were all preceded by policy changes at Facebook and Twitter, which both shifted how the platforms handle rule-breaking behaviour by accounts linked to the president as well as the far right. The subreddit The Donald once played an important part in the pro-Trump internet community and its organisation. Over the years, it had managed to bring extremist content in front of big audiences.
In 2016, Huffman had limited the reach of the subreddit after it figured out how to get the site’s algorithms to promote pro-Trump content. Members were spreading the Pizzagate conspiracy theory while volunteer moderators had asked Huffman to do something in order to fight the abuse and harassment communities faced from The Donald members.
Some would agree that Reddit’s bans came too late; but then again, better late than never, no? These policy updates come three weeks after Black Lives Matter protests led many Reddit forums to ‘go dark’ in protest of the company’s lax policies around hosting (and therefore promoting) conservative and racist content. Reddit’s change of approach towards free expression on its platform proves that things might finally start to change.