A shock site is a website that is intended to be offensive or disturbing to its viewers, though it can also contain elements of humor or evoke (in some viewers) sexual arousal. They contain material of high shock value, generally of a pornographic, scatological, racist, sexist, graphically violent, insulting, vulgar, profane, or otherwise provocative nature. Some shock sites display a single picture, animation, video clip or small gallery, and are circulated via email or disguised in posts to discussion sites as a prank. Steven Jones distinguishes these sites from those that collect galleries where users search for shocking content, such as Rotten.com. Gallery sites can contain beheadings, execution, electrocution, suicide, murder, stoning, torching, drowning, vehicular accidents, war victims, rape, necrophilia, genital mutilation and other sexual crimes.
Some shock sites have also gained their own subcultures and have become internet memes on their own. Goatse.cx featured a page devoted to fan-submitted artwork and tributes to the site's
hello.jpg, and a parody of the image was unwittingly shown by a BBC newscast as an alternative for the then-recently unveiled logo for the 2012 Summer Olympics. A 2007 shock video known as 2 Girls 1 Cup also quickly became an Internet phenomenon, with videos of reactions, homages, and parodies widely posted on video sharing sites such as YouTube.
There have been several shock galleries that have launched and shut down. Rotten.com hosted murder videos and images of deceased people and brandished the motto "Pure Evil Since 1996". During their operation, the owners of Rotten.com launched several new sites, one of which was Shockumentary.com in 2006. Shockumentary.com was created to sell murder videos like Traces of Death. Ogrish.com (established in 2000) hosted "mutilated corpses, car accidents, burn victims, genetic malformations and other grotesqueries". Ogrish.com's reputation rested on its publication gore media from terrorists and war. In 2006, Ogrish.com was rebranded as Liveleak.com. Liveleak.com received media attention for deviating from its predecessor for choosing not to host videos of ISIS beheadings, claiming they were tedious and "added nothing new to the conversation". It did, however, host gore content from Syria and hosted the controversial Dutch short film, Fitna, which criticized the Quran. BestGore, established in 2008 by Mark Marek, was notorious for its extremely graphic content, such as photos and videos of murders, suicides and violent accidents with an estimated 15–20 million monthly visits during its operation. He pleaded guilty and was given a six-month conditional sentence for his role. Some shock galleries, however, established more specific niches. The sites Necrobabes, Cannibal Café, and Gourmet tailored themselves to would-be cannibals in the early 2000s. These sites gained attention in 2003 when Armin Meiwes, an aspiring cannibal, used the sites to connect with Jurgen Brandes, a man who desired to be eaten. The two met, and Brandes' murder and cannibalism were recorded and posted on various sites. Additionally, Graham Coutts visited Necrobabes, Rapepassion, Violentpleasure, and Hangingbitches frequently before strangling teacher Jane Longhurst.
There have also been several individual videos that received viral attention. Goatse was one of the earliest and best-known shock sites, featuring an image of a man stretching his anus with his hands. The site featured a page devoted to fan-submitted artwork and tributes to the site. The site was shut down in 2004; however, various mirror sites featuring the image still exist. In 2012, it was resurrected as an e-mail service. In 2008, the Dnespropetrovsk Maniacs posted the graphic murder video "3 Guys 1 Hammer". This was followed years later by Eric Clinton Kirk Newman's (known now as Luka Rocco Magnotta) video "1 Lunatic 1 Icepick" in 2012—a video of Newman murdering Chinese student Lin Jun that contained dismemberment, cannibalism, and necrophilia and was posted on Bestgore.com. Newman also shared a video one year prior of him using a vacuum and plastic bag to suffocate two kittens to the song "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon to several gore sites. Meatspin is a shock site containing a looping video (set playing to "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by Dead or Alive") of a man and a trans woman engaging in sexual activity while the receiving partner's penis spins endlessly. A counter keeps track of how many "spins" the viewer has watched. In 2013, a student at Florida State University hacked the wireless network of his campus and redirected all traffic to Meatspin. In 2015, consternation followed when a family restaurant played the website in front of young children. In 2016, the website was played on a public digital billboard in Sweden, resulting in international media attention. The site first went live on March 10, 2005. As of 2017[update] the domain is now meatspin.cc. John-Michael Bond of The Daily Dot stated that to an extent, "casual homophobia" of the 2000s helped popularize meatspin.
Currently, there is no federal or state legislation in the United States outlawing snuff films that depict the murder of a human being—a common source of material for shock sites. In 2000, California introduced a bill to outlaw these films, but after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) raised protest over First Amendment Concerns, the bill failed to pass, and no other bill has passed since. Supreme Court case Miller v. California established a test to determine whether content falls under the category of unprotected obscenity. The Miller test requires that content "appeals to the prurient interest" to be obscene, meaning content must have a sexual component.
That test was modified by United States v. Richards, which ruled that animal crush videos (videos that involve the murder of animals) can be obscene and therefore, are unprotected by the first amendment even though they do not clearly appeal to sexual interests. The court ruled animal crush videos to be unprotected obscenity for two reasons. First, animal crush videos can appeal to a "specific sexual fetish," which fits the sexual conduct requirement of the Miller test. Second, United States v. Richards modified the Miller test by ruling that obscenity "can also cover unusual deviant acts" even if they are not directly sexual. Child pornography also falls under the category of unprotected obscenity by these tests. Due to the combination of murder and pornography depicted on shock sites that contain murder videos like gore2gasm.com, legal scholars have argued that murder videos also appeal to specific sexual interests and are thus unprotected under United States v. Richards.
In terms of liability, unless snuff films are illegal, third party providers like shock sites that host murder videos and related snuff films are protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). However, websites that require users to upload illegal content or actively encourage users to create and share illegal content can be held liable. Additionally, courts have granted increasing privacy rights to families over the publication and distribution of images of deceased relatives. The owners of Rotten.com were successfully sued by families for hosting photos of dead people and videos of their deaths on the site.
In the UK, legislators passed the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008, which included a section outlawing extreme pornography (that which is intended to sexually arouse viewers that threatens a person's life, is likely to seriously harm a person's anus, breasts, or genitals, or involves human corpse or an animal). This has resulted in shock sites, as well as US pornographers including Max Hardcore and Extreme Associates, being convicted of obscenity in the UK.
During the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, the shooter broadcast the killings live on Facebook. The video was shared on Facebook and uploaded to YouTube shortly after. Footage of the mass killings were hosted on 4chan, 8chan, LiveLeak, Voat, Zero Hedge, and KiwiFarms. Rather than the Australian government trying to ban this specific instance of murder videos, internet service providers in Australia chose to place temporary blocks on any sites that hosted the footage until all the footage was believed to be removed.
Several ethical concerns have been raised on the topic of shock sites and murder videos. One concern is that the popularity of shock sites will encourage an increase in violent murders; which can result in more extreme and violent videos that will likely generate more views on shock sites. Murder videos can inspire copycats to replicate the snuff films. After the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs' released "3 Guys 1 Hammer," Eric Clinton Kirk Newman murdered Lin Jun, a Chinese student, and uploaded the video (including scenes of dismemberment, cannibalism, and necrophilia) under the similar title of "1 Lunatic 1 Icepick".
Another concern is the right of a victim and the victim's family to privacy after death. This is the issue of whether Lin Jun's parents have a right to remove the video of their son's murder from the internet. Murder victims cannot consent to the footage of their deaths being used and uploaded, and several court cases have agreed that parents and loved ones should have a right to prevent the widespread viewership of a personal tragedy and stop the video from being published.
Finally, while shock value is not sufficient to justify banning content legally (as was determined by Cohen v. California), there are still ethical concerns about the emotional damages caused by the jarring nature and content of shock sites. Viewing violent content such as murder videos on social media can cause or trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cause other emotional distress.
As more people upload and view murder videos on shock sites, some believe that this practice is being mirrored in the horror movie genre. The presence of CCTV in Saw and the online torture auctions in Hostel Part II raise questions on the nefarious use of monitoring systems and the widespread access to videos of Al-Qaeda beheadings, executions in American prisons, and other real depictions of violence and murder on the internet. In examples like Saw, the contemporary horror genre reflects real horror on the internet.
Some shock sites themselves have made their way into pop culture media. Lemonparty.org contains an image of three elderly naked men in a bed kissing and having oral sex. The song "If You Wanna Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul formerly played in the background. The image has been mentioned on some television shows, such as in a sketch on Talkshow with Spike Feresten, and dialogue on Archer, The Simpsons, The Cleveland Show, American Dad! and 30 Rock. 30 Rock made at least three allusions to a "Lemon party", including when Liz Lemon's father, Dick Lemon, says, "It wouldn't be a Lemon party without old Dick!" The website has also been described by Jimmy Fallon on the Opie and Anthony radio show, on Chelsea Handler's TV show Chelsea Lately, Michael J. Nelson from RiffTrax.com during the RiffTrax for Avatar, by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, and American Dad!, by Michael Cera and Jonah Hill during promotion for the film SuperBad.
- 2 Girls 1 Cup
- Internet pornography
- Internet privacy
- Internet troll
- List of Internet phenomena
- Moral panic
- Attwood, Feona (November 2014). "Immersion: 'extreme' texts, animated bodies and the media". Media, Culture & Society. 36 (8): 1186–1195. doi:10.1177/0163443714544858. ISSN 0163-4437.
- Farmand Jr., Musa K. (November 2016). "Who Watches this Stuff?: Videos Depicting Actual Murder and the Need for a Federal Criminal Murder-Video Statute" (PDF). Florida Law Review. 68: 1915–1941.
- Jones, Steven (2010). "Horrorporn/Pornhorror". In Attwood, Feona (ed.). Porn.com: Making Sense of Online Pornography. Peter Lang. p. 124. ISBN 9781433102073.
- Reyes, Xavier Aldana (2013), Matthews, Graham; Goodman, Sam (eds.), "Violence and Mediation: The Ethics of Spectatorship in the Twenty-First Century Horror Film", Violence and the Limits of Representation, Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 145–160, doi:10.1057/9781137296900_9, ISBN 9781349451913, retrieved 2019-09-20
- Snuff : real death and screen media. Jackson, Neil, 1968-, Kimber, Shaun,, Walker, Johnny, 1987-, Watson, Thomas Joseph, 1987-. New York. ISBN 9781628921120. OCLC 886489355.CS1 maint: others (link)
- EDT, Cole Stryker On 09/30/14 at 6:36 AM (2014-09-30). "Murder, Mayhem and the Evolution of Website LiveLeak". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
- "Edmonton gore site owner charged in Magnotta video investigation released on bail". Global News. 18 July 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- Reith, Terry (25 January 2016). "Mark Marek, who posted Magnotta murder video, pleads guilty to corrupting morals". CBC/Radio-Canada. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
- "Beyond Hannibal". The Independent. November 20, 2003.
- Sapsted, David (2004-02-05). "'I have got an awful feeling I will strangle a woman'". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-10-14.
- Kirkpatrick, Stewart (2004-06-09). "Lazy Guide to Net Culture: NSFW". The Scotsman. Edinburgh.
- "The Hands of God". Snopes.com. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- Kumar, Pawan (2008-11-11). "Goatse.cx; Distended?". Yaziyo News.
- "goatse.ru". Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- Hutchinson, Lee (2012-11-19). "How goatse.cx went from shock site to webmail service". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2014-11-02.
- Moore, Jack. "9 Seemingly Innocent Phrases You Should Never, Ever Google at Work". GQ. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
- Hartley-Parkinson, Richard. "Gay Porn On O2 Restaurant Booking Screen Leaves Diner Feeling Sick". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
- Munzenrieder, Kyle. "FSU Campus Wi-Fi Users Redirected to "Meat Spin" Shock Site by Hacker". Miami New Times. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
- Zimmerman, Neetzan. "Florida State Student Faces Felony Charges for Redirecting School's Wifi Users to Infamous Shock Site". Gawker. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
- Hartley-ParkinsonRichard Hartley-Parkinson, Richard. "Family saw hardcore gay porn playing on restaurant computer". Metro. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
- Barrell, Ryan. "Meatspin Porn Website Somehow Ends Up On Bus Stop In Malmö, Sweden". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
- Prabhu, Vijay. "Someone hacked a billboard in Malmo, Sweden to show hardcore porn". Techworm. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
- Samuelson, Fredrik. "Reklamskylt visade grov porr på stationen". Expressen (in Swedish). Retrieved 2017-01-27.
- Oakes, Omar. "Billboard hijacked with porn in Sweden". Campaign. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
- Bond, John-Michael (2017-02-03). "Revisiting Meatspin, the NSFW site that shocked a generation". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- Calvert, Clay; Torres, Mirelis (2011). "Staring Death in the Face during Times of War: When Ethics, Law, and Self-Censorship in the News Media Hide the Morbidity of Authenticity". Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy. 25: 87.
- Attwood, Feona (2011). "The Paradigm Shift: Pornography Research, Sexualization and Extreme Images". Sociology Compass. 5 (1): 13–22. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00356.x. ISSN 1751-9020.
- Ma, Alexandra. "4chan, 8chan, and LiveLeak blocked by Australian internet providers for hosting the livestream of New Zealand mosque shootings". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
- "Lemon party". Best week ever TV. Archived from the original on 2008-03-09. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "The Simpsons – Lemonparty.org reference". YouTube. 2011-01-17. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Liz Lemon Party". CollegeHumor. December 14, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
It's not a Lemon party without old Dick!
- Sepinwall, Alan (October 5, 2012). "Season première review: '30 Rock' – 'The Beginning of the End': Tank it!". HitFix. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
...because there's nothing worse than a surprise Lemon party
- "It isn't a Lemon Party without old Dick". YouTube. 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Opie & Anthony – Jimmy Fallon Lemon Party". YouTube. 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Chelsea Handler talks about Lemonparty.org". YouTube. 2010-03-19. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Avatar". RiffTrax. 2010-04-22. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "American Dad Season 8 Episode 2 Killer Vacation (3) #240300". TV equals. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Superbad Stars Plug Lemonparty.org". YouTube. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- Herrmann, Steve. "Shock tactics." BBC. June 5, 2007. Retrieved on February 23, 2009.
- Johnson, Robert 'Bobbie' (June 8, 2007). "B3ta hacks the BBC with Olympic goatse". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- Wilson, Jeremy (2013-09-20). "The vilest sites on the internet". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2014-11-02.
- Chen, Adrian (2013-04-16). "Goatse and the Rise of the Web's Gross-Out Culture". Wired. Retrieved 2014-11-02.
- Anderson, Lessley (2012-06-13). "Snuff: Murder and torture on the internet, and the people who watch it". The Verge. Retrieved 2014-11-02.
- Schroeder, Audra (2014-10-26). "The Legacy of Rotten.com". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2014-11-02.
- Dewey, Caitlin (2014-10-28). "When botched surgeries and suicides go viral: The revolting rise of 'medical gore'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-11-02.
- Reynolds, Daniel (August 2009). "Esthetics of the Extreme in Shock Websites". Applied Semiotics (23) – via Questia Online Library.