LIVING IN THE MOMENT (OR NOT)
If it can be exploited, you can be sure that it will be.
Facebook is finding itself in muddied waters these days. A spate of live-streamed murders, suicides, and other abuses have left it struggling to reconcile its claims of greater connectivity with these instances of exploitation.
“When you interact live, you feel connected in a more personal way,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg when Facebook Live first launched.
According to Facebook’s narrative, it had created yet another way for people to share and connect to one another. It promoted greater intimacy, as people would be able to participate more actively in each other’s lives, even from a distance.
There’s no denying that Live is pretty incredible. With nearly two billion users worldwide, Facebook has a reach that no TV network could hope to match. But Facebook is also naive in believing that Live would only host breaking news, cute celebrity shoutouts, and fuzzy, heart-warming moments.
You can’t create something and not expect people to misuse it, something Facebook has appeared woefully unprepared for. The video of a Thai murder-suicide was accessible for around 24 hours before it was finally taken down, while a 12-year-old’s suicide by hanging was reportedly left online for two weeks.
Facebook has since said that it does not allow this kind of 'content' on the platform, and is working on measures, including artificial intelligence, to better flag offending photos and videos. It also announced plans to add 3,000 people to its global community operations team to bolster its ability to review community reports and act on them.
Unfortunately, there’s just no easy solution to all this. The first step is for Facebook to acknowledge that it has a problem, instead of sugarcoating things with talk about the authenticity of live video and the use of augmented reality for art. Zuckerberg took a step in that direction by citing the need to build a safe community and respond quickly in a Facebook post in May, and this is a hopeful sign that the company is finally taking the problem seriously.