The recent mass shootings in the United States were widely covered by the media. It isn't a new observation that the extensive coverage of such events aid in the popularization of the killer and also benefit any possible political agenda that they may have had. In fact, in many cases, these benefits are likely to be the primary motivating factor for the shooting.

With that in mind, it seems obvious that a possible preventative measure is to limit the coverage of such events, at least to the extent that the shooter and their message isn't popularized and widely distributed and given the attention that the shooter clearly wants. Yet, this doesn't happen. Instead, the shooter's name and face is widely distributed, their opinions on Facebook or Twitter are detailed, and their manifests are put on a nice PDF and distributed to anybody who wants to read it.

Are there any ways in which one can regulate such behavior by the media (or anybody else, e.g. social media users) under the pretense of some sort of censorship law?

Are any politicians or parties pushing for such ideas? Does such regulation exist in other countries?

  • 1
    One of the big problems with this idea isn't simply that it is prohibited by the US constitution, or that it restricts people's freedom of speech, or that it's easily exploited to limit beneficial ideas (for instance, Trump would love the power to target anyone saying that his rhetoric contributed to the shooting). It's that it's often less effective than it seems. For example. in Germany, it's completely illegal to sell Mein Kampf - and yet Germany has many neo-Nazis and other far-right groups, who've had no trouble reading it anyway.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 9:59
  • I've heard suggestions that responsible news organizations could choose to self censor in this regard by reporting the details as usual, but anonomizing the shooter's identity, ideally in a manner that humiliates or otherwise discourages this type of popularizing (like providing the shooter an alias like "Murderer McCoward"). The problem is that this would require coordination among news outlets to not only all agree to use an alias, but quite possibly to use the same alias in order to allow coverage from different sources to remain informative to the public.
    – cpcodes
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 18:45
  • And, having written that, it would also require the nicknames to not potentially imply association with an ethnic group that the shooter was not a member of (such as the Irish or Scottish as the use of "Mc" or "Mac" might possibly associate). In short, some sort of standard like that of Hurricane names would need to be established and agreed to.
    – cpcodes
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 18:49

3 Answers 3


In the United States, such a regulation would be prevented by the first amendment.

Some other countries have rules for a sub judice situation which basically means a matter under investigation by a court.

In England and Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Canada, Sri Lanka, and Israel it is generally considered inappropriate to comment publicly on cases sub judice, which can be an offence in itself, leading to contempt of court proceedings. This is particularly true in criminal cases, where publicly discussing cases sub judice may constitute interference with due process.

Countries like China can censor more aggressively, whether in this kind of situation or a number of others.

  • Sub-judice (in Britain) is based on the idea that jurors are influenced by ideas which they may have read or seen on TV. It backs the principle that evidence should only be allowed subject to strict rules of admissibility etc. What newspapers report as fact can be entirely speculative. This does not mean the press is gagged. They are free to report anything, but as regards detailed evidence, only after it has been heard in court. It was decided in the 1920s that if total freedom of the press, and the interests of justice were in conflict, then a fair trial is the more important.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 20:05
  • I think you will find that some US states operate "prior restraint" a form of sub-judice. In any case the UK is bound by Article 10, of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is brioadly similar to the US First Amendment - and the sub-judice rules exist irrespective of that.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 18:12

Many countries have formal or informal ways to regulate the traditional media. This includes industry self-regulation like the Hays Code in the US during the last century, or laws like the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act.

There are plenty of countries with similar regulations, including agreements not to mention suicides to prevent copycats, and rules against naming suspects, unless they are already famous in their own right (and sometimes not even then).

But the nature of news media is changing, and companies like Twitter or Facebook do not fit the traditional definition of news media. They do not create the user-generated content, but they decide to rank and promote it based on their algorithms. One could argue that that means they're news media and not telecommunications, and that they are responsible for the stories they push.


Yes. In Britain we have strict sub-judice rules, and have had since the 1920s.

Without sub-judice I would suggest it would have been impossible in a British court to have obtained a guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin. The defence would simply have argued that it was impossible for him to have been given a fair trial, as such had been the publicity surrounding the case that jurors would have already made up their minds before hearing the evidence.

I was interested to hear on our news today that the fact that a Member of Congress had suggested that a not-guilty verdict could presage rioting etc, could be use by Chauvin's lawyers as grounds for an appeal. This came as a surprise, since whenever I have attempted to explain sub-judice to an American, they have invariably seen it as an infringement of press freedom. I suppose it is, but when the principles of press freedom, and integrity of the judicial process are in conflict, a choice needs to be made.

Anyone breaching sub-judice rules, e.g the editor of a newspaper, can be found in contempt of court and can be called before the judge, and in some circumstances be sent to prison until they have purged their contempt.

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