Facebook has gone so outrageously viral it can’t control users who live broadcast heinous crimes or even take their own lives for all to see.
Streaming technology has changed the way we live, for better and worse, but there’s peril that persists despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s promise to crack down on videos broadcasting real-life violence.
That was sadly proven yesterday when a Mashpee man committed suicide on Facebook Live. The chilling post was reported to authorities at 6:40 a.m.
Facebook Live launched in April 2016 — with Zuckerberg describing it as “having a TV camera in your pocket. Anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world.”
But it’s not all fun and games.
Cleveland grandfather Robert Godwin Sr., was murdered while collecting cans last April after spending Easter with his family. His suspected killer posted a video of himself on Facebook announcing his plan to commit the heinous crime. He then posted a video showing him shooting Godwin to death. A few minutes later, he confessed to Godwin’s slaying on Facebook Live, and later committed suicide.
At the time, one of Godwin’s daughters, Tonya R. Godwin-Baines, told me she wanted Zuckerberg to block video postings of murders. “We don’t want another family to ever have to suffer what we did,” she said.
A week later, a father in Thailand live-streamed himself killing his 11-month-old daughter, while the baby’s mother helplessly watched in horror.
After that, Zuckerberg vowed to add another 3,000 people to Facebook’s 4,500-person “global community” operations team to “review the millions of reports we get every week, and improve the process for doing it quickly.”
It’s a mammoth undertaking that sadly has yet to catch every troubling post.
“It’s heartbreaking, and I’ve been reflecting on how we can do better for our community,” Zuckerberg wrote this past spring.
“If we’re going to build a safe community, we need to respond quickly. We’re working to make these videos easier to report so we can take the right action sooner — whether that’s responding quickly when someone needs help or taking a post down.”
But monitoring the millions, if not billions, of Facebook video postings is daunting.
One expert I spoke with suggested a virtual neighborhood watch.
“The best way to keep a community safe is having a community look out for itself,” said Emerson College professor David Gerzof Richard, founder of BIGfish Communications. “The way that these crimes get found out is someone from the community sees it.”
He said Facebook users need to speak up and say “Wait a second. This is something that is not right and I need to report it.”
Studies say we devote a staggering 40 minutes a day to Facebook. Maybe it’s time we stay logged on a minute or two longer to spot the dark corners on the site.