- 19 Jun 07, 03:08 PM
Unlike YouTube, LiveLeak has few restrictions when it comes to violent video footage. According to co-founder Hayden Hewitt, the object of LiveLeak is to provide content from, “light entertainment to the hardest of hard-core news footage.” By going where YouTube doesn’t, LiveLeak has created a niche for itself in providing coverage of the extreme events in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Alongside film clips of a camel drinking a bottle of coke, and a kid in a wheelchair doing death-defying stunts, sit videos of the execution of Saddam Hussain, and a failed suicide bomber’s final moments. Both soldiers and insurgents supply footage. If you decide to check out the website, be aware that some videos are hard to stomach. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
LiveLeak doesn’t win any prizes for accessibility, but it is usable. The videos are provided in Flash format and play as soon as a page is opened making them accessible to visually impaired visitors - the big play buttons often seen on Flash video tend to be inaccessible to screenreaders so, for those screenreader users keen to consume video, the fact they start without havinng to find a button is good.
Usability is less than ideal for visually impaired users employing screen reader software, however, and proper use of headings or skip links to bypass all the navigation at the top of every page would be a great improvement.
On the other hand, it is possible to register with the website (no inaccessible verification graphics ya hear), as well as to upload and comment on videos with a screen reader. That’s something we haven’t always been able to say about user-generated video websites, such as Friction TV, in previous reviews. LiveLeak is still in beta testing, so improvements may still be made to make it more user-friendly. You can email the site owners with any suggestions.
That leaves the matter of the content and as you might suspect, accessibility is patchy. Some videos have little or no audio track, making them hard to follow for visually impaired viewers but that's the nature of user generated content and it can't be ruled over. However, users submitting videos do have the option to provide a text description of the content. Where a detailed summary is present, such as with the video taken after a bomb attack in Kabul, then this can compensate for a lack of audio.
Sadly not all users write descriptions though.
LiveLeak is certainly controversial, and has video material that the BBC or any other mainstream broadcaster simply would not be able to show, for example, raw harrowing footage from Iraq and Afghanistan. We'll leave the debate about whether it is democratically important or irresponsible to other blogs.
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