Facebook Struggles With Live-Streamed Violence

Facebook Struggles With Live-Streamed Violence



Facebook is struggling with a recent increase of live-streamed acts of violence. The latest was the suicide of James M. Jeffrey, 49, from Robertsdale, Alabama, which he streamed live, Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

This was following the horrific video of a Thai man killing his infant daughter the day before, on Monday, April 24.

Wuttisan Wongtalay filmed the gruesome act on the rooftop of a deserted hotel in Thailand.

Afterward, he turned off the camera and committed suicide.

Facebook is not the only social media outlet having problems with graphic violence being broadcast. In this case:

Wongtalay’s video was also posted to YouTube, but was reportedly taken down within 15 minutes of the BBC alerting YouTube to its presence.

These are the latest in a series of live-streaming violence on the social media platform. Only last week a Cleveland man, Robert Godwin, was murdered by Steven Stephens, who broadcast it while committing the crime. This led to a nationwide manhunt for Stephens, which ended when he committed suicide.

Internet Violence Evolves

Violent content on the internet is not unheard of in the past. In 2002, a video circulated on the internet, showed the graphic execution of journalist Daniel Pearl by terrorists.

As social media has come of age, those who commit terroristic acts of brutality have used the instant access provided by sites like Twitter and Youtube to reach many thousands and even millions of viewers.

However, the recent spate of disturbing content on Facebook Live is causing law enforcement officials and the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg much anxiety. They are worrying if this kind of violent action will become some sort of a twisted trend.

2017, in particular, has seen an uptick in the appearance of violent acts being broadcast live. Additionally, the brutality is no longer contained to militant Islamic terrorism, as in past years. It is becoming more of a personal expression.

Facebook Live Becoming a Personal Violence Venue

In January of 2017, the racist abduction and torture of a mentally-challenged teen were live-streamed in Chicago on Facebook.

The half-hour video, which exploded on social media… appears to show at least one black man torturing and taunting the 18-year-old white victim – a special needs student – while making racial and disparaging remarks about President-elect Donald Trump.

At the time, Facebook defended “its policy of policing content.” The protocol was to take down a video if it was posted to promote the violence, but to allow the same violent video to remain if it was used to condemn the violent action itself.

Sexual assault and rape are also some personal criminal acts perpetrators are deciding to live-stream on Facebook. In March 2017, the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl in Chicago was posted as a live video.

The judge, in that case, had the accused juvenile criminals placed in protective custody. However, the victim and her family also received threatening posts online and threats from visitors to their home. They had to be relocated to another home for safety.

One of the most disturbing factors in this series of violent events is how long the live videos remain posted and viewed. In the case of the Thai man murdering his daughter, two videos of the killing were posted and stayed up for about 24 hours. There were over 100,000 views of the first video and more than 250,000 views of the second.

Facebook Facing the Problems

The overwhelming popularity of social media, and especially Facebook, has created problems when seriously disturbed people, of a criminal bent, decide to use the live-streaming feature.

On one front, the social media titan is trying to address the problem of suicides being streamed live on its platform. Recently they announced plans:

[To] integrate real-time suicide prevention tools into Facebook Live in addition to live-chat support from organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.

The company acknowledges that “we have a lot of work to do,” in this area.

Entities such as Twitter, Google, Youtube, and Facebook all have a very difficult task if live-streamed violence is to be curbed. It is also incumbent upon the consumers of social media to be more conscious of actually reporting violent crimes on the internet, rather than allowing the content to linger and spread. When violent videos remain up for long periods of time, both the media platform and the viewer must inform law enforcement immediately, and remove the content forthwith.

By D.T. Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne


Chicago Tribune: Prosecutors: Boys threatened Facebook Live sex assault victim with dog attack
FOX NEWS: Horrific Facebook baby killing casts spotlight on social media savagery
HUFFPOST: Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube— Put Ethics Before Algorithms
TIME: Alabama Man Uses Facebook Live to Stream His Suicide
USA TODAY: Facebook Live of Chicago assault raises fear of copycat violence
USA TODAY: Facebook Live is scene of another suicide; police say ‘I hope this isn’t a trend’
The Wall Street Journal: Reporter Daniel Pearl Is Dead, Killed by His Captors in Pakistan

Featured and Top Images Courtesy of D.T. Osborn