Two men are riding in a car. The driver is singing and dancing to rap music. The car stops. Several minutes later someone comes up to the window, the driver reacts by throwing up his hands and a gunshot can be heard. The phone the driver is using to record himself drops to the floorboard.
The screen goes blank as the car crashes, but the recording continues. The victim can be heard trying to get out of the car and begging for help. His last breath taken on this earth is recorded.
If you assumed this scenario depicts the scene from a movie, you would be wrong.
This tragic incident involved a man from Montgomery, who was fatally injured recently in a shooting that was livestreamed on Facebook.
Montgomery police have confirmed the existence of a video of the homicide.
Facebook, of course, says they have removed the video, but it’s too little, too late.
The video has been viewed by almost 300,000 users.
The social media giant has been promising for several years to stop the livestreaming of violence. It hasn’t happened.
If they can’t or won’t do it on their own, then the whole livestreaming service needs to go.
In December of 2016, a 12-year old livestreamed her suicide.
A man posted a video of a murder in April of 2017 that stayed online for almost two hours before Facebook removed it.
In 2018 a woman was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend while he streamed the murder on Facebook.
In several instances not a single witness called authorities to report what they had seen.
Last year the New Zealand Christchurch mosque was the scene of an attack by a gunman who killed 50 people. The gunman broadcast the attacks and it was recorded in real time while the attack was happening and broadcast on Facebook live.
It took 29 minutes for Facebook to detect the livestream video of the massacre and remove it.
But the video still exists because nothing on the internet is ever really gone.
After the New Zealand massacre, the president and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said the company needed to improve its systems so it could identify terror events livestreamed in real time.
Or maybe it is time to hold him and his company accountable for allowing those videos to be broadcast.
A California lawmaker has proposed a law requiring social media websites to remove photographs and videos of crimes posted by a user when a request is made by the victim. They could face civil fines of $1000 each day the video is not removed.
It would be the first bill of its kind in the United States.
Australian lawmakers passed legislation that could see social media executives face jail time and fines if their platforms fail to remove violent content.
Another option that has been presented by tech experts is the recommendation that Facebook Live broadcasts be on a time-delay.
In the television industry, short-time delays of a few seconds are typical during live broadcast events. This allows a moderator to review content and confirm its appropriateness for viewing.
Implementing this time-delay feature would be very simple for these social media giants who boast of their technical abilities. Facebook said they recently increased its number of moderators by hiring an additional 3000 people
Zuckerberg has so far resisted efforts to make the changes for a time-delay. He has also refused to say how many murders, suicides and sexual assaults have been livestreamed. He said he was reluctant to implement measures like a livestream “delay” for fear of fundamentally altering the service.
It’s past time to alter that service.
Time delays on broadcast television only happened because broadcasting regulators penalized networks and broadcasters for any inappropriate content during live events.
Livestreaming acts of violence is horrifying and should not be acceptable no matter how many people object.
Fewer than a dozen states have “duty to rescue” or “duty to report” requirements of its citizens.
Criminals have always sought to amplify their actions through the media, but social media makes it really easy.
Facebook has pledged to review its moderator practices and use artificial intelligence to speed up their response.
It may be time to take it out of their hands.
United States law has deemed Facebook a platform and not a publisher but that needs to change. They should not be allowed to hide behind the, “we didn’t bring the gun to the homicide, we just broadcast it,” excuse.
Mark Zuckerberg had previously asked the world’s governments and regulators to play a more active role in controlling what is published on the internet.
We need to grant his wish and start with Facebook livestreaming.