Just days after Facebook said it’s not a news feed, it was thrust right back into the news business with two shootings shown on Facebook Live. The sniper fire in downtown Dallas put Michael Kevin Bautista in the middle of the action when he streamed the gunshots live on Facebook as it was happening.
Just one day earlier, Philando Castile was shot by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car with Castile, streamed the aftermath on Facebook Live.
Bound to Happen
It was bound to happen when you put live streaming devices in the hands of everyone with a smartphone. Not that the streaming caused the violence, but that the violence was caught on camera and broadcast.
Those two videos, and other videos like this alleged on-camera shooting in Chicago have brought Facebook right back into the conversation about its role in news. When more than half of the country’s population is on Facebook, it’s inescapable.
There’s no “Facebook control room”
At TV stations that do local news, someone is always monitoring what goes on the air. If the live video gets “too graphic,” someone is responsible for getting it off the air. Most radio and TV stations have a delay button and/or a “dump” button they can hit to cut off or bleep out material they think their audience will find offensive.
Nobody is sitting around in a “Facebook control room” watching all the live feeds. It’s not practical. Here’s a snapshot of all the Live feeds going on as I’m writing this at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. Each blue dot is a different live stream.
Facebook says it does have a dedicated team 24/7 to monitor activity, but it’s relying on its users to flag behavior.
Here’s Facebook’s response to the recent incidents:
Live video allows us to see what’s happening in the world as it happens. Just as it gives us a window into the best moments in people’s lives, it can also let us bear witness to the worst. Live video can be a powerful tool in a crisis — to document events or ask for help.
We understand the unique challenges of live video. We know it’s important to have a responsible approach. That’s why we make it easy for people to report live videos to us as they’re happening. We have a team on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, dedicated to responding to these reports immediately.
The rules for live video are the same for all the rest of our content. A reviewer can interrupt a live stream if there is a violation of our Community Standards. Anyone can report content to us if they think it goes against our standards, and it only takes one report for something to be reviewed.
One of the most sensitive situations involves people sharing violent or graphic images of events taking place in the real world. In those situations, context and degree are everything. For instance, if a person witnessed a shooting, and used Facebook Live to raise awareness or find the shooter, we would allow it. However, if someone shared the same video to mock the victim or celebrate the shooting, we would remove the video.
Live video on Facebook is a new and growing format. We’ve learned a lot over the past few months, and will continue to make improvements to this experience wherever we can.
Whether Facebook – or any social media – wants to play a role in news or not, they’re front and center. In essence, social media and smart phones with cameras have made anyone an eyewitness to history with the ability to share with the world.
After the shooting in Minnesota, Facebook Chairman & CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted this on his Facebook page.