Morbid curiosity is now enough to elevate a story from the gutter to the level of “news.” Nolan’s justification boils down to the belief that people should have the video because they want it, a rationale echoed by Slate’s Farhad Manjoo on Twitter. “Posting stuff people are talking about is what [Buzzfeed] does. This is their job,” he said. But people sometimes want things they shouldn’t have, an obvious truth reflected in the mere existence of things like editors and editorial judgment and ethics classes in j-school. There’s a reason you don’t see pornography on news sites, despite the fact that Google search volume for “porn” eclipsed search volume for “news” sometime around June 2008. Though people want porn, editors don’t believe it’s the media’s place to give it to them. And when it comes to snuff videos, another form of entertainment, most media outlets make the same choice.

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Caitlin Dewey is a digital journalist and occasional essayist. She's on Twitter @caitlindewey.