What accountability does Facebook have?

Last week, hundreds, if not thousands, watched a 74-year-old man be shot and killed on Facebook Live. The video stayed up on Facebook for at least two hours, leaving it available to be shared countless of times. By the time Facebook finally got around to taking it down, the video had already been saved and shared on different platforms, leaving the video permanently in existence. The victim’s family pleaded with the world to stop sharing his death. They begged users to instead share his pictures; his sweet personality and his accomplishments. While many believed they were helping to get the word out so the murderer could be caught quicker, they really subjected this poor old man’s death to be shared on a social media platform.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this situation has happened. Many disturbing acts are now being committed on Facebook Live, or posted on various other social media platforms. From sex crimes, murder, torture, bullying and suicide, this over-sharing of acts should not be happening, let alone shared for countless amounts of people to watch. It is becoming more and more common these days.

19-year-old Marina Lonina live streamed her 17-year-old friend being raped in February. Antonio Perkins was shot in a drive-by while he was live-streaming his friends, and this video remains up since it does not violate Facebook’s company standards. There are several stories of individual’s live-streaming their own suicides. In particular, a video of a 12-year-old girl hanging herself on a tree was left up for two weeks. A video of a group of men and women attacking a young, disabled man had more than 16 thousand simultaneous viewers watching this group bind, gag and cut their victim. Not only did they watch, but they interacted with the attackers, leaving comments as they were torturing the young man. More than 40 people were watching a 15-year-old girl being sexually assaulted by several teenage boys, while no one called the police. There are so many other chilling examples of these horrific crimes taking place on Facebook Live, yet still nothing has been done to forbid this from happening.

As a technology-filled world, we are becoming more and more detached from empathy online. Cyber-bulling and “trolling” are at an all-time high. It seems that when individuals can hide behind a computer screen and their words are being spoken through a keyboard, they seem to think that their words lose their weight and meaning. We see ourselves becoming desensitized as a result of exposure to ridiculous amounts of violent content everywhere we look on social media. Elizabeth Joh, a law professor at the University of California, states, “Any of these platforms — especially live ones — encourages users to perform. Joh questions, “Should Facebook have a duty to rescue a crime victim? Should we, or is it okay for thousands or millions of people to watch a crime unfold without doing anything except sharing it?” Even if we are not partaking in the crime, by sharing it and giving them their “15 minutes of fame,” these horrendous people will be encouraged to continue their acts.

So the question is: to what degree should Facebook be held responsible for this? Obviously these social media networks cannot be held accountable for the acts actually being committed, but what is their role in allowing these live videos to be shared? Facebook released a statement stating that “this is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content,” but this does not change the fact that the video remained up for hours. It does not take away from the surge of violent acts now being committed on their social media platform. Facebook, as well as the other social media networks these incidents are also occurring on, Instagram for example, need to step up and change how they handle these situations. Facebook says that they “know they need to do better,” so when are they going to do better? Words mean nothing when they are not followed with a plan or action. Facebook has no way of filtering live-streamed videos. They have human content moderators that watch videos one at a time, viewing them for inappropriate content and removing them when necessary, but there is no way to catch these live videos as they happen. Time Magazine makes the point that oil companies are held accountable for cleaning up their oil spills, clearing the damage caused both directly and in-directly by the spill. So why should we not hold social media to this same standard? The damage their “oil spill” of disturbing videos is causing is wide spread. It is desensitizing us, as well as our youth and children, allowing these criminals to think what they are doing is okay, and leaving no justice for their victims. It is time for Facebook to take action.

No one lays blameless in these types of situations. The perpetrator, the social media network and those who watch and share these videos are all participants, and all at fault. So do your part to put a stop to this new trend. Report disturbing content. Contact authorities when you are able. Most importantly, do not participate. Prove that as a race, we still feel empathy and want to do more good than harm. End it here.

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