April 17, 2017
An Ohio resident is accused of fatally shooting an elderly man in Cleveland yesterday after a 57-second video of the murder was shared via Facebook Live. Since its launch less than a year ago, Facebook Live “has provided an unedited look at police shootings, rape, torture, and enough suicides that Facebook will be integrating real-time suicide prevention tools into the platform,” reports Wired. However, this is “the first time a killer has streamed themselves committing a homicide,” raising “questions about the limits and responsibilities of a platform that has pledged to reflect humanity in its purest form.”
As of press time, federal and state authorities were still searching for 37-year-old Steve Stephens who, according to the video that Facebook pulled from its platform, murdered 74-year-old Robert Goodwin.
Similar real-time violence has been broadcast in the past (in 1974, for example, news reporter Christine Chubbuck committed suicide on live TV), but with social media such as Facebook, videos can easily survive on the Internet despite being pulled from the platforms from which they originated.
Facebook “has resisted calls to use its algorithms to censor videos like this before they are ever posted,” notes Wired, “not just because it does not want to be accused of violating speech rights, but also because training computers to identify murder at the moment it happens is hard.”
Relying on Facebook employees or community users to flag inappropriate content is likely not immediate enough to adequately deal with a scenario such as what took place in Cleveland.
“Traditional media companies have finely-wrought guidelines and policies to help them make these decisions, but Facebook depends on us to do it. And now it might very well be time for the company to roll up its own sleeves and get to work,” suggests Wired.