Facebook Live Crimes

A PSA on how to report crime videos on Facebook

By Hannah McKay Contributor

On April 6, 2016, Facebook launched its newest feature: Facebook Live. This new element enables Facebook users to broadcast videos to their followers in real time. It also offers a window into crimes and heinous behavior across the globe, as they happen.

Although it’s Facebook’s responsibility to monitor the platform for any restricted posts, the sheer amount of content that gets uploaded on a daily basis makes the job impossible without artificial help. Like most social media platforms, Facebook evaluates inappropriate content posted to its platform within 24 hours of a user flagging it. However, since the Live feature plays out in real time, violent videos are difficult to take down before they go completely viral.

One way to moderate posts in such large quantities is through artificial intelligence. Facebook’s algorithms categorize content into what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Of course, artificial intelligence learns from experience which results in some unacceptable content to leak through the filter.

On Wednesday May 3rd, Facebook announced that it is hiring 3,000 new employees in order to increase monitoring and removal of content that violates its policies. Although this a good start, no matter how many people Facebook has on its team, it’ll never be able to look at everything.

This is a tough situation for Facebook because if it starts removing content that isn’t necessarily harmful, it will be accused of heavy censorship. Like the spread of fake news, Facebook is currently struggling to balance the freedom of its users to express themselves and post what they want while still keeping some control over what spreads among its users all over the world. It’s easy to automatically blame technology and the platforms that make it easy to share horrific videos. However, the root of the problem has nothing to do with the Live stream feature. Facebook Live hasn’t changed the psychology of the crime, but it has changed its access to distribution and reach. If Facebook was held legally responsible for the live streaming of crimes, it would simply have to remove the feature altogether.

The advancement of social media has brought out the rise of performance crimes, self-defeating behavior created by the user to cause a disruption on social media outlets. In the past, this tactic has been primarily used by political protesters and terrorists in order to influence a social change or response, but in 2017, it’s the new way for those who commit heinous crimes to gain a sense of power and importance while further humiliating their victims. When it comes to a platform like Facebook, a criminal who is aiming to reach a sort of celebrity status couldn’t hope for a larger audience.

What can we, as Facebook users, do to stop Facebook Live crime? For starters, we need to get rid of the bystander effect; a social psychological phenomenon where no help is offered to a victim when others are present. The probability of help directly correlates with how many bystanders there are. The more people are present, the less likely it is that help will be called. This effect has an even larger probability when people are watching a crime or inappropriate behavior from behind a screen, which only further distances them from the situation at hand.

As Facebook Live grows in popularity, it’s important for all Facebook users to know exactly what to do when they see illegal behavior being streamed.

If you see a crime being committed on Facebook Live:

DO NOT share the content
The person streaming the video is most likely seeking attention. Sharing content encourages this.
DO report the content to Facebook immediately
As a user, you can flag content that you believe depicts harmful behavior.
DO call 911
If you think someone in the video may be in danger, contact law enforcement immediately.
DO look for descriptive details and/or record the video on your phone
Providing key details to law enforcement can save them time.
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