For almost 15 years the website LiveLeak shocked and entertained the internet. If you wanted to see uncensored and horrifying footage of war and violence that YouTube wouldn’t allow, then LiveLeak would serve it up to you. In 2014, Business Insider called it “The Islamic State’s favorite site for beheading videos.” Now, LiveLeak is gone, replaced with a softer sounding video website called ItemFix that eschews the violence and gore that made LiveLeak a staple of the dark side of the internet.
“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,” LiveLeak co-founder Hayden Hewitt said in a blog post explaining the change. “The world has changed a lot over these last few years, the Internet alongside it, and we as people. 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.”
LiveLeak began in 2006 as an offshoot of the early internet shock site Ogrish. Along with Rotten.com and others, Ogrish was a place people went to when they wanted to see the worst the web had to offer. It was a digital Face of Death. LiveLeak contained much of the same footage but framed it in a more respectable way and the creators framed it as a place for citizen journalists to post uncensored videos of world events.
If you wanted to see footage of the Saddam Hussein execution you went to LiveLeak. If a friend wanted to show you footage of a drug cartel beheading via chainsaw, they were showing you on LiveLeak. If you wanted to see footage of America firing Hellfire missiles at fighters in Afghanistan, you looked to LiveLeak.
As the world got more complicated and more people surged online, Hewitt and others tried to better moderate LiveLeak. After Islamic State posted the video of it beheading journalist James Foley in 2014, LiveLeak banned Islamic State from posting beheading videos. As YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter removed video of the 2019 Christchurch Mosque shooting, LiveLeak continued to host it and faced mounting pressure from the Government’s of Australia and New Zealand.
That’s all over now. LiveLeak is gone, replaced by a site that explicitly bans gory and violent imagery. “To the members, the uploaders, the casual visitors, the trolls and the occasionally demented people who have been with us. You have been our constant companions and although we probably didn’t get to communicate too often you’re appreciated more than you realize,” Hewitt said on his blog. “On a personal level you have fascinated and amused me with your content. Lastly, to those no longer with us. I still remember you.”