Social media giants clamp down on sickening Virginia shooting footage

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter, along with video sharing site YouTube, rushed to remove shocking video footage that appeared to show the shooting of two television news journalists Wednesday.

The suspect in the Moneta, Va. shooting was identified by police as 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan, who also went by the name Bryce Williams. Flanagan died at 1:30 p.m. ET from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Although Twitter and Facebook suspended pages believed to have been Flanagan's which had what appeared to be first-person video of the shooting, the social media behemoths could not stop the footage from spreading on the Internet. The video also surfaced on YouTube, apparently via Facebook. YouTube subsequently removed the video, noting that it violated the site’s policy on “shocking and disgusting content.”

“Our hearts go out to the families affected by this terrible crime,” said a YouTube spokeswoman, in an email to “YouTube has clear policies against videos of gratuitous violence and we remove them when they're flagged.”

A spokesman for Facebook confirmed that the social media giant had removed a profile and a page for violating the site's Community Standards.

In the Twitter video, a cell phone camera angle shows the shooter walking up to a reporter, interviewee and camera man and pointing a gun at them. The trio, in the midst of the interview, does not see the shooter approach or the pistol pointing at them. The shooter initially stops near the group and points the gun away. After a few seconds, he aims again and begins firing, first at reporter Alison Parker, who screams and runs as the video ends.

In the longer video posted to Facebook the sound of at least 14 gunshots can be heard. Nine shots ring out before a pause and the final shots are fired.

The two people killed in the live broadcast were identified by colleagues at TV station WDBJ7 as Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27. Flanagan had previously served as a reporter for WDBJ7 using the name Bryce Williams.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.