LiveLeak, the notorious host of online beheading videos, is no more

The controversial video sharing site has been taken down by its founders after 15 years in operation

LiveLeak, the controversial website that hosted shock videos including the beheading of US journalist James Foley and the execution of Saddam Hussein, has been taken down after almost 15 years in operation. 

Originally founded in 2006, as an offshoot of the similarly graphic video sharing site Ogrish, the London-based LiveLeak aimed to host uncensored footage of content that wouldn’t be allowed on sites such as YouTube, including footage of war, accidents, and other violent incidents. Basically, it gathered the worst of humanity in one convenient, traumatising place.

Unlike Ogrish, however, LiveLeak placed an emphasis on enabling so-called “citizen journalism” and providing an insight into darker world events, from the brutal operations of drug cartels, to US military airstrikes in Afghanistan. It has also been accused of being a breeding ground for conspiracy theories.

LiveLeak additionally made some changes to its censorship policy over the years, such as in 2014, when it banned future ISIS beheading videos after the murder of Foley (though that didn’t stop it gaining the title of “The Islamic State’s Favourite Site For Beheading Videos” later that year).

“The last fifteen years have been an insane rollercoaster for all involved,” says LiveLeak co-founder Hayden Hewitt, in a statement posted to its replacement video sharing site, ItemFix. “The thing is, 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.”

“The world has changed a lot over these last few years, the Internet alongside it, and we as people,” he adds. “I’m sat here now writing this with a mixture of sorrow because LL has been not just a website or business but a way of life for me and many of the guys but also genuine excitement at what’s next.”

“Whilst I know many of you will be upset, possibly angry, about our decision I do hope you also understand our reasons and appreciate that, alongside you, we have walked together through some interesting times and some crazy ones. Sometimes it’s just the right time to chart a new path.

ItemFix is described as a site “for creativity and fun”, which explicitly bans content including “sensitive media” such as excessive violence or gore, as well as any hate content. “It’s something completely different,” Hewitt writes, “completely fresh, and something we feel energized about tackling.” Hopefully that also means less misinformation and ruined childhoods, though it remains to be seen how strict the new restrictions will be.