Cleveland police are still searching for a man who allegedly shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. on Easter Sunday. The man allegedly posted a Facebook Live video of the shooting, but police and Facebook later clarified that there were three videos. Among them was a Facebook Live video including an alleged confession and another of the alleged shooting itself, which wasn't live. Either way, the incident raises a few questions about live streaming and whether or not Facebook should be able to cut off Facebook Live videos in real time.
Late Sunday, both videos were removed from the social networking site and the suspect's account had been disabled. But given the nature of Facebook Live videos, a saved version of the video that reportedly included the shooting had already made its way around the internet.
Currently, a person can report a Facebook Live video for violating the site's content rules, but the process appears to be pretty slow for cutting the video off in real time. Facebook issued a statement on Monday about the incident writing:
As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible. In this case, we did not receive a report about the first video, and we only received a report about the second video — containing the shooting — more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted. We received reports about the third video, containing the man’s live confession, only after it had ended.
It's a tricky situation for the social networking site. The nature of live streaming makes it hard to report in real time and the fact that people easily share videos and posts means that horrific videos like Sunday's can spread around the internet as quickly as a cute video about your new puppy.
That Facebook is reviewing their reporting procedures is a good sign and hopefully this shooting encourages some real change. Since Facebook Live's launch last year, there have been a few instances where crimes were allegedly broadcast through their streaming feature. There were two incidents where sexual assault was allegedly broadcast, one in Chicago and one in Sweden.
These incidents also raised some legal questions about the responsibility of people who view those videos. Reportedly, some 40 people viewed the livestream of the alleged Chicago gang rape and no one — not one person — reported it.
Chicago Police Superintendant Eddie Johnson told NPR at the time:
We've seen a couple acts in this city now in the last few months involving social media, and it just disgusts me that people would look at those videos and not pick up the phone and dial 911.
Offline, citizens are not legally required to report a crime or stop it, though some states do mandate that certain professions report crimes. Like a teacher or a doctor reporting abuse when it comes to their attention. It's a very "of the moment" question. As much as social media has changed lives for the better (or at least given us something new to obsess over), there are still a lot things to be worked out. Especially when it comes to reporting crime and bullying online.